WEIRTON - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin followed through with an earlier commitment and formally presented the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle with the last $200,00 needed to complete the Taylor, Smith & Taylor demolition in Chester.
"This funding will help the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle spearhead cleanup activities at an abandoned industrial site that has been vacant and under-utilized in the Chester community for more than 20 years," Garvin said. "Our brownfields resources target communities where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed and where our investments will have the greatest effect on the health and economy of the area."
The grant completes the $1.1 million funding package for the demolition and cleanup of the 10-acre riverfront property. Idled since 1981, the building had fallen into disrepair and represented a significant health and safety risk to the community.
FINAL PUSH — Celebrating receipt of the last piece of the $1.1 million funding package for the Taylor, Smith & Taylor demolition project in Chester were, from left, John Brown, executive director of Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission; Jeff Davis, Hancock County commissioner and member of the BDC board of directors; Marvin Six of the BDC; USEPA Region 3 Administrator Shawn Garvin; Pat Ford, executive director of the BDC; and Bob Reed, representing the BDC board. -- Contributed
John Brown, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, said the property "was clearly a public hazard and an environmental nuisance for decades, and for 33 years the community lived with it."
"Within the last year, with the assistance of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency environmental assessment dollars and technical and financial support from the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, we've been able to build strong collaboration within the community that ultimately attracted a buyer who could secure resources necessary to acquire and remediate the site," he added. "It's a community project, something everybody ... wanted to see completed."
Brown pointed out the project had the support of neighborhood residents as well as the Hancock County Commission, which contributed a half-million dollars to the BDC, and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the U.S. EPA.
"These funds will not only protect public health by removing contaminants like asbestos and lead from the neighborhood, they will help restore the property to a productive use," Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis, a member of the BDC board, said, adding that the BDC, county commission and BHJ have built "a strong coalition with the residents of Chester that is taking a strategic approach to cleaning up the former TS&T property to open new doors for investment in Hancock County."
BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said with the technical and financial support provided by the U.S. EPA, "the BDC will be able to create a unique development that will enhance the vibrancy of downtown Chester, stabilize and strengthen the adjacent residential neighborhood, and provide Chester with a development to be integrated back into the community."
"Regarding the U.S. EPA, I can't say enough," he added. "Their team has been with us since we first expressed interest in purchasing this property a little over a year ago. The U.S. EPA's Land Revitalization Team, which was created to assist people like us in tackling projects of this nature, assisted us all hours of the night and day, from the due diligence stage, to acquisition, remediation and planning. They held our hands through the entire process. We are not a Boston, Baltimore or Pittsburgh. We are a small community just using every resource available to us, putting in long hours, trying to make a difference. Yet, the U.S. EPA staff treated us as if we were a large city. The U.S. EPA's staff always had specific and targeted answers to our questions, strong and immediate communication with our team and has provided technical assistance that has been invaluable, will be invaluable and has made a difference in the Northern Panhandle."
In addition to the $500,000 provided by commissioners, the funding package included a $200,000 infrastructure council loan; $19,000 from the Benedum Foundation; nearly $60,000 from the BDC, including a $40,000 U.S. EPA match, $8,400 for Phase I assessment, $4,075 for an asbestos survey, $1,790 for Phase II preparation; $1,148 for clean-up alternative and grant; and some $276,000 from U.S. EPA, which included the $200,000 for riverbank remediation.