ASHTABULA — More than seven years after the Ashtabula City Port Authority broke ground on an industrial park, they might finally have their first tenant.
Aqua Ohio announced Wednesday that it plans to move their Ashtabula operations center on North Bend Road in Saybrook Township to the business park at East Sixth Street and Route 11, City Manager Jim Timonere said.
“We’re absolutely delighted to announce Aqua is our first tenant,” he said. “With the long history of collaboration between the city and Aqua, they’re the perfect cornerstone tenant for the park and we’re enthusiastic about others following their lead.”
Though the total price of the project has not yet been released, the blueprints of the facility include offices, outdoor storage and interior and exterior parking on almost three acres of the 42-acre park. The bulk of the building is comprised of a pre-engineered steel building with masonry frontage. The design will allow the company to expedite construction and allow it to be ready for occupancy in the spring.
JCI Contractors of Ashtabula designed the 14,000-square-foot building with an eye toward efficiency, said Jeff LaRue, Aqua Ohio’s community relations coordinator.
“It will boast large windows to take advantage of natural sunlight,” LaRue said. “When staff does need more light, flipping the switch will activate energy efficient fixtures.”
Charlie Borsukoff, a construction manager for JCI Contractors, said it’s an exciting project and he looks forward to working with Aqua and the city of Ashtabula. JCI was also hired to refurbish the old Ashtabula Hotel, which is now Signature Health.
Tony Mancari, area manager for Aqua’s Lake Division, said they are happy to be the first tenant in the city’s office park, and they look at the move as a recommitment to the community.
“What I’m most excited about is that the move will take us from the edge of our service area to the geographic center of our customers,” he said. “It will improve our efficiency and shorten our response times for customer service and emergency calls.”
Another advantage of the move includes expanding garage space to almost double the space they have now. This will allow equipment to be stored indoors reducing wear and tear and the associated maintenance costs.
While Aqua’s move is the driving force in the project, a developer, Ashtabula Water Properties, LLC, will actually own the building and will lease it to Aqua Ohio with an opportunity to purchase the building in the future.
Aqua has no plans to hire additional people at this time, LaRue said.
Timonere said he will be asking for tax abatement for the project at Monday’s City Council meeting. He will know the cost of the project then, he said.
The industrial park took almost 11 years of planning and work by the Ashtabula City Port Authority before a ground-breaking ceremony took place May 29, 2007.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Josephine Misener, who was vice president of City Council at the time, said the city has waited a long time for an industrial park, which offers electricity, gas, water and a sewage system.
Infrastructure was completed in 2007, with nine sites ranging from one to 16 acres.
In November 2009, the Port Authority celebrated its first sale to Jim Godez of Godez Holdings in Martins Ferry, who predicted construction would be complete in a year. But Godez bought the lot on the condition he would get a 75-percent tax abatement for 10 years.
At the time he bought the property, he owned National Welders Supply Co. in the Ashtabula harbor and on Route 20. By 2009, he sold the business to Valley National Gas. He planned to consolidate the two sites at the industrial park and lease a building to the new owner.
But then the Ashtabula Area City School Board offered Godez a 50-percent tax abatement, instead of the 75 percent.
Godez had said up front he was interested only in a 75-percent tax abatement for 10 years. When he heard the school board voted down his request 4-1, he wanted to cancel the sales contract and started looking for a new location, Port Authority Chairman Ron Kister has said.
Soon after, the Port Authority agreed to pay Godez the additional 25-percent the school board would not waive. The amount projected to be about $1,300 per year, Kister said.
Godez still owns the lot, but he never developed them, so there’s no tax abatement, Timonere said.
“(Aqua Ohio) is the first business and building to move into the park,” he said.
The city Port Authority built the $1.3 million park with almost $300,000 of the city’s money and $62,500 of Ashtabula County’s money.
The Port Authority also received a $375,000 rural development initiative fund grant and a $375,000 rural industrial park loan at 3 percent throughout 15 years to develop the new business park.
Kister could not be reached for comment.