WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Economic Development Authority has agreed to assist the Business Development Authority of the Northern Panhandle in seeking a business or businesses for the former site of the Wheeling Corrugating Plant.
Pat Ford, executive director of the BDC, met with the board Thursday to ask it to assist in managing and marketing the site, which includes a 480,000-square-foot building and 616 acres between state Route 2 and the Ohio River in Beech Bottom.
Ford said state, county and local officials were involved in the cleanup of the Taylor, Smith & Taylor Pottery site in Chester.
The BDC acquired the property for $125,000 last year and worked with others to secure more than $1 million from local, state and federal sources for its cleanup.
Ford said the same level of cooperation will be needed to bring a new business to the Brooke County site.
"We need to all be on the same page for this project to be a success," he said.
EDA Chairman John Casinelli and Vice Chairman Norm Schwertfeger were among members who voiced support. Also on hand were county Commissioners Norma Tarr and Tim Ennis and Commissioner-elect Jim Andreozzi.
"This is great. I think the consensus from everybody here is it's a real positive," Schwertfeger said.
Ford said he wanted to stress that not much stands in the way of the site being developed.
"There's no bureaucratic red tape. We could bring a prospect into that site today if we needed to," he said. "I've been walking that building with prospects every day since last Friday."
Ford said a Phase 1 environmental assessment, involving an investigation into records indicating any environmental contamination, was done before the BDC acquired the property.
He said the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission is working with the BDC to obtain federal money for a Phase 2 study, which would include taking core samples from the land.
Ford noted about 12 acres north of the culvert plant underwent environmental remediation through the efforts of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., its former owner, a number of years ago.
The BDC paid $200,000 for land rights for the site from State Route 2 LLC, a subsidiary of Hackman Capital of Los Angeles, which purchased the property through bankruptcy proceedings for RG Steel, its last owner.
Ford said the BDC chose to partner with Hackman for the acquisition because the company is not interested solely in the plant's equipment but also in helping to market it to a new business.
He said Hackman won't take equipment that may benefit a future occupant.
"They're in this for a long relationship with us," Ford said.
He asked Ruby Greathouse, curator of the Brooke County Museum and Cultural Center, and other Brooke EDA members to tour the site and determine if there are things such as photos and even old equipment that might be of historic significance and little interest to a new occupant.
Ford said it may be necessary to divert a section of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail from its present site behind the plant, adding that would be done at "our cost,"
Most of the trail was built on former railbed running between Wellsburg and Wheeling. But the plant's paint line was built on the railbed, requiring the trail to be extended through a 3.4-mile area overlooking the Ohio River.
Greathouse, a leader of the Brooke County Pioneer Trail Association, said, "We'll work with them. The last thing we want to do is harm any potential for employment."
Asked if the BDC acquired mineral rights, such as the right to lease the land for natural gas drilling, Ford said such rights remain in bankruptcy court.
In other business, the board approved:
The allocation of $3,000 for a planned emergency tie-in between water lines serving the Hammond Public Service District, Beech Bottom and Wellsburg.
The allocation of $3,000 for the first floor of the museum and cultural center. Greathouse noted an open house will be held for the new location at the former G.C. Murphy building at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at 704 Charles St.
The open house will be followed by a Christmas program at 6:30 p.m. featuring Charlie's Kids, a group of local youth, and the Brooke High School Madrigal Choir.