Applications for grants completed by BDC

WEIRTON – There were a lot of long nights and sagging eyelids, but the area filed three major environmental grant applications – totaling about $800,000 – in a holiday season crush before the federal deadline. Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, issued a big “thank you” to volunteers and staff he said provided “not hundreds, but thousands, of hours” to make the grant applications ready. “And it was all during the holiday season. We really amped up the pace the weekend after Thanksgiving to work around the clock to make the deadlines of Friday the 18th,” he said. The applications include a $600,000 coalition grant that the U.S. EPA is allowing to cross the federal region border that is delineated by the Ohio River. The grant would be applied toward cleanup of brownfields – sites that contain contaminants from commercial or industrial activity and ranging from the corner gas station to major factories; a $120,000 application for asbestos and lead removal from the lodge at Williams Golf and Country Club; and $80,000 for asbestos and lead abatement at the former Jimmy Carey stadium site. The asbestos and lead there would be removed from the former school transportation building and ancillary structures, such as concession stands on the site. Contaminants must be removed from brownfield sites before developers can obtain financing for projects to put the sites back into a productive state. Ford noted that beyond the BDC, the only paid person was a consultant from Civil and Environmental Consultants of Pittsburgh, who performed cost estimates on the cleanups to be included in the applications to outline need and determine if the grants would be enough to cover the work. Ford said the major effort was the coalition grant, which area officials decided to file well ahead of the Dec. 18 deadline. Ford said he feared computer crashes from the federal government end at the EPA application deadline, so he wanted to be sure to have the application filed ahead of time. It was completed on Dec. 16. “At the end of the day, the BDC paid staff is just me, Marvin (Six, assistant director) and Amber (Nest, office manager), and when you take three grants of this size – we're talking close to 300 pages of paperwork – it took the community to put these grants together,” he said. The coalition grant included help across the region, from Mike Paprocki, executive director of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission; Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority; and Domenick Mucci, Steubenville's mayor in his capacity as executive director of the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission. “We had people in Morgantown, at WVU, and at the Brownfields Assistance Center who did fact checks on our data, to be sure it was exactly what the grantors were asking for,” Ford said. Volunteers then came in, often after hours and their own workdays, to read the grants. “The applications are our story, and you have to tell our story in 15 pages to someone who isn't even from our region. You have to give them context – what's it like in Weirton – and the nuances of the need and then, the ask,” Ford said, explaining the grants probably will be reviewed by EPA officials in a Western region. “When you're talking about a half dozen people writing, you don't want the story to be lost.” Ford said the volunteers included “many wonderful people, and our board of directors, making cookies for us and bringing sustenance to us through the evening hours,” he said. The coalition grant made it into the EPA system on Dec. 16. The lodge grant was in on Dec. 17 and the Carey grant came close to the federal deadline, being filed at 4 p.m. Dec. 18. Ford said the Carey grant is important in that the lease-purchase agreement BDC has with Metal Conversion Technologies is contingent upon a site cleanup before a purchase would occur. Federal grants already have been used to remove petroleum contamination and underground tanks from the site. The grants' fate will be known in early summer. “For now, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who pitched in,” Ford said.

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