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Published: Friday, 11/19/2010

Port Authority approves for $1.5M in state funding for Old Jeep site cleanup

A preliminary redevelopment plan produced for the port authority by the consultant working on that grant application, meanwhile, proposes a mix of industrial buildings and parkland on the Jeep Parkway property, with the park including an interpretive trail explaining the site's history.

The port board Thursday passed three resolutions related to cleaning up the 111-acre site, which the port authority bought last month for $95,000, including one to apply for the state grant and two to accept smaller grants already awarded. The three grants total $2.16 million.

Work expected to start in December will use money from the smallest grant, $340,000 in federal "stimulus" money, passed by the city of Toledo for removing hazardous materials from the site, said Matt Sapara, the port authority's director of operations and property development. The money will pay most of the cost of clearing a "limited amount" of tricholoroethylene, an industrial solvent, from part of the property, he said.

"TCE was used to clean parts in the aluminum foundry," Mr. Sapara said. "It's the only thing [hazardous] we've found so far, and we'll clean it up and dispose of it."

The port expects to submit its application for $1.5 million from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund by January and have a response by March. While a 25 percent local match is required for the state money, port officials said funds from a $1.3 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant qualifies as the match.

The CORF grant application includes a redevelopment planning element, Mr. Sapara said, and to that end, port consultant Mannik & Smith developed the concept showing six industrial buildings spread along the east side of Jeep Parkway, while the west side would become a park and have at least one solar-panel array.

"Because it's in a flood plain, we're not going to be able to put buildings over here," he said, pointing to the park area on an artist's rendering of the plan. That portion of the site was used for employee parking during factory operations.

The concept shows four 150,000-square-foot industrial buildings and two 50,000-square-foot industrial buildings on the property's upland side, all with access to the abutting Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

Also during the meeting, the port board informally directed agency staff to draft a letter to Governor-elect John Kasich, urging him to consider trying to reassign $400 million in federal high-speed rail funds appropriated to an Ohio project Mr. Kasich opposes for other rail-development purposes in the state.

Ohio early this year was assigned federal funding to develop a passenger-rail corridor linking Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, which state officials billed as the start of a network of fast trains throughout the state. But Mr. Kasich during the campaign derided the trains as slow and wasteful, and reiterated his opposition to the passenger trains after he defeated Gov. Ted Strickland in the Nov. 2 election.

In a Nov. 9 letter to Mr. Kasich, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the $400 million cannot be used for other transportation purposes, such as road construction or freight railroad improvements, if Ohio opts out of the passenger-rail project.

"None of these funds may be used for anything other than our high-speed rail program," Mr. LaHood wrote, adding later that if Ohio declines to participate, "we would like to engage in an orderly transition to wind down Ohio's involvement in the project so that we do not waste the taxpayers' money."

Mr. Toth said Thursday that if the so-called "3-C" Corridor is to be abandoned, Ohio instead should propose a rail project that would allow passenger trains on existing Ohio routes to be beefed up - most notably, tracks passing through Toledo that could connect with planned rail upgrades in neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania - rather than forfeit the federal funds to other states.

Board members agreed, and encouraged Mr. Toth to send a letter to Mr. Kasich within the next week advancing that idea.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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