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Brownfield coalition secures funds

BROWNFIELD WORK — The Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission on Wednesday hosted an open house to show work done by the brownfield coalition on both sides of the river. The coalition received $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study industrial sites for repurposing. Participating in the open house were, from left, Sam Staschiak, coordinator of the Ohio EPA Voluntary Action Program; Rachael Dininger, environmental specialist with the Ohio EPA; Dan Tjoelker, brownfield coordinator with the Ohio EPA; Mike Paprocki, BHJ executive director; Casey Korbini, acting chief communications officer with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection; and Erin Brittain, brownfield project manager with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. -- Mark Law

STEUBENVILLE — The brownfield coalition in Hancock, Brooke and Jefferson counties touted its work on Wednesday during an open house at the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission’s office.

Mike Paprocki, BHJ executive director, said the coalition has been able to secure $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study industrial sites in the three counties for possible repurposing.

The sites studied were Bidell Gas Compression at the former Weirton Steel machine shop; Frontier Crossing at the former basic oxygen plant site in Weirton; Pietro Fiorentini in Weirton at a former coal reclamation site; Beech Bottom Industrial Park; the Third Street fuel tank removal project in Steubenville; and an asbestos removal project at the former Steubenville City Building for repurposing as a possible marketplace.

The brownfield grants laid the groundwork for additional grants, Paprocki said.

He said a $2.6 million federal Economic Development Grant was obtained for the Beech Bottom Industrial Park to cover the cost of a new roof for a building which will house Jupiter Aluminum Corp. after an environmental review and abatement is completed.

“Jupiter Aluminum is investing and bringing jobs. We are cleaning up brownfields and bringing them back for development. We are replacing industry with industry and making it safer for workers,” Paprocki said.

“The U.S. EPA wants to see the outcome of what we are creating,” he said.

Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, said the brownfield coalition is unique compared to similar groups across the country. He said the coalition includes two regional offices of the U.S. EPA and two state environmental protection agencies.

“If you look at our region, we are small. We don’t have the financial, technical and political resources of other regions and bigger cities. It is a collaboration with partners on both sides of the river,” Ford said.

The BDC received the first $600,000 grant, and BHJ got the second $600,000 grant. BDC is now applying for another $600,000 grant.

“We wouldn’t have received the second $600,000 unless we showed we did something with the first $600,000,” Ford said.

Pietro Fiorentini invested $6 million and Bidell Gas Compression invested $5 million into their sites, Ford said.

“The endgame is to create jobs. Without the (brownfield grants), these properties would still be abandoned today,” he said.

Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, said the brownfield coalition was able to use some of its money for a phase one study of the Third Street site, where 10 large fuel tanks were removed.

As a result of the study, the port authority was able to apply for and receive a $250,000 grant through the Ohio Development Services Agency to remove the tanks, which dated back to the 1920s.

Scurti said he will work with Ohio Motor Group, the owner of the property, to market the site. He said it would be good for retail or office space, considering its location near state Route 7.

Scurti said brownfield coalition money also is being used for an environmental review of the former Steubenville City Building, which city leaders are considering to be turned into a marketplace.

He said the study will identify issues with asbestos or lead paint and what remediation is needed before construction starts.

Casey Korbini, acting chief communications officer of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, said the brownfield program takes liabilities and turns them into assets.

She said it increases jobs and improves the quality of life in a community.

“There are several success stories in the Northern Panhandle,” she said.

The brownfield coalition started with Brooke and Hancock counties and then incorporated Jefferson County.

She echoed Ford’s statement about how unique the project is.

“It is the first regional organization to bring together various communities on a regional perspective,” she said

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