The deadline for towns in Wood County to apply for Brownfield site assessment grant funding is Sept. 30, the county’s economic development commission has announced.
The commission is administering a site assessment program with $250,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the commission, said the funds can be used to conduct assessments of potentially contaminated sites such as former gas stations, machine shops, bulk storage facilities, rail yards, oil well sites and similar commercial areas. He has sent letters to elected officials throughout the county encouraging them to apply for funding if there are qualifying sites in their jurisdictions.
An assessment has been completed at a site in North Baltimore and the commission has received applications from the cities of Northwood and Rossford, Gottschalk said.
The City of Northwood’s efforts to secure funding for an assessment of a former gas station in the 4440 block of Woodville Road have been hampered by an absent owner, said Bob Anderson, city administrator.
“We haven’t been able to get a hold of the owner for the past few years,” Anderson said. “We send any notices we have to a tax mailing address by certified mail and it comes back as undeliverable. We’ve talked to other people trying to get a hold of this corporation and they’ve not been able to find them either.
The city has declared the property a nuisance, which gives the owner a time frame for getting the site cleaned up before the city takes action.
“If we abate the nuisance what we’ll do is hire an independent contactor and have it tear down the structures above ground and seal the tanks,” Anderson said. “Then we’d assess those costs to the property owner. The hold up is, in the eyes of the county, the owner is uncooperative. As I explained to the county, the owner is uncooperative because we can’t find him. The county doesn’t want to stick its neck out but that leaves a lot of sites that are an eyesore and need to be cleared up.
“Rust is eating into the canopies at the gas station. I don’t think it’s imminent but eventually those canopies are going to become unstable.”
The grant money the city is seeking would be used for soil test borings and related sampling to determine if there are leaks from underground tanks.
Wood County is reluctant to foreclose on the property because it doesn’t want to assume liability, Anderson said.
“It’s just kind of sitting there,” he said. “Part of the grant application process includes a property owner’s permission to get on the property and do the borings. I’ve said we believe we do have permission to do it because we have issued nuisance abatement notices and they didn’t respond. So they’ve become a nuisance in the city under our ordinances, which state we have a right to go in and clean up the nuisance. Part of cleaning up, in our opinion, is knowing what the nuisance is and that is where phase 1 and phase 2 of the grant come in. That is why we need the money from the county.”
According to the Wood County auditor’s website, the gas station property was purchased by Millenium Property Holdings, LLC, in December 2006, from GG Real Estate, LLC, for $182,841. Delinquent property taxes are $14,051.
The economic development commission estimates typical environmental due diligence costs for a commercial property can range from $10,000 to $25,000.
Gottschalk said property owners generally need to grant access but in the case of abandoned sites it is possible to legally get access for the assessment work.
For information about the grant program contact Douglas Jambard-Sweet at 419-351-2958.