BDC, Jefferson County Port Authority await EPA ruling on coalition grant application

LOCAL NEWS MAY 20, 2016 WEIRTON – Representatives of two area development organizations are hopeful they soon will know whether they will be named the recipient of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency coalition grant focused on the cleanup of area brownfields. Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, and Evan Scurti, executive director of the Jefferson County Port Authority, expect to receive word in the next few days of whether the grant of approximately $600,000 will be awarded for the region. If awarded, the EPA would allow the grant to cross the federal region border delineated by the Ohio River, permitting the pot of funding to be used on projects in both West Virginia and Ohio. It’s a regional approach Ford and Scurti have been working to promote for the betterment of the entire Ohio Valley. “We need to work together to get these prospects here,” Ford said. The funding, if awarded, will be used as part of continuing efforts to assess and clean up brownfield sites in Jefferson, Hancock and Brooke counties. Brownfields are sites which contain contaminants from commercial or industrial activity, ranging from a gas station to a manufacturing facility. Cleaning up these sites, and attracting businesses to them, will be a benefit to residents on both sides of the river, Scurti explained, as jobs will be available to residents of all three counties no matter which community the company might locate. “Most of our citizens realize we have to work as a region,” Scurti said, noting there will still be competition, when necessary, but cooperation will be a major focus. If awarded, the grant would be used by the BDC and the port authority and administered through the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, itself a federally recognized agency which covers the three counties. It also will require the establishment of a task force, to be co-chaired by Ford and Scurti, which will determine which properties to tackle. The grant did not require any local funding match.