The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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September 5, 2013

Ohio EPA workshop outlines available resources for redeveloping brownfields

ASHTABULA — Community leaders from the tri-county area spent the day, Wednesday, learning about a number of available resources to assist with redevelopment of brownfields.

The event was hosted by the Ashtabula County Port Authority. The workshop was part of a series the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been participating in. A number of experts from various agencies were on hand to discuss their specific roles in working toward revitalizing brownfields.

Sean Ratican, executive director of the Ashtabula County Port Authority, said about 90 people attended the free workshop.

“We had over 85 registered and another half dozen walk-ins,” he said.

Last year the Port Authority started a brownfield program for the county and has been working to acquire blighted properties for redevelopment.

One of those properties is the former First Energy Plant C pumping station in Ashtabula Township. The Port Authority recently entered into a $3.3 million contract with Union Industrial Contractors Inc., of Ashtabula, to complete renovation of the plant.

A $1.55 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administra-tion (EDA) made the project possible.

“This area needs more brownfield redevelopment,” Ratican said. “By utilizing and redeveloping some of these dormant properties, we can redevelop them into potential job sites.”

Ratican said the redevelopment of brownfields can have a significant economic development effect.

Speakers from OEPA, the Ohio Development Services Agency, U.S. EPA, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Office and Kansas State University (which provides assistance to communities through a U.S. EPA grant) discussed topics including OEPA’s Voluntary Action Program (VAP) and statewide inventory of brownfield properties; Ohio Development Services Agency’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund; Ohio Water Development Authority loan programs; U.S. EPA Brownfield Grants, Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) program and Targeted Brownfield Assessments; E-tools for brownfield revitalization and online summary of local resources for small and rural communities; and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development resources.

Ratican said the workshop provided those in attendance with a wealth of information regarding brownfields and helped outline the pathway to redeveloping the various sites within the county.

“We were honored to be asked to host the event in Ashtabula County,” he said.

Ratican said government officials and private contractors as well as the general public, were among those in attendance at the regional workshop.

In the past 18 years, OEPA has helped revitalize more than 8,000 acres of blighted land at nearly 400 sites across the state.

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