Ohio gives $1 million for razing at mill

STEUBENVILLE – The Ohio Office of Budget and Management Controlling Board Monday approved the release of $1 million in Clean Ohio Assistance funds for the demolition of two blast furnaces, a boiler house and an annealing building at the former RG Steel Steubenville plant.

The funds also will be used for asbestos abatement at those structures.

The release of capital funds was announced Monday afternoon by state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, who commended River Rail Development, the city’s Urban Projects Office and the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission “for putting this all together.”

“Hopefully we will see new economic opportunities in that area. It is a brownfield site but now we can see other uses for the property,” said Cera.

According to Cera, “River Rail Development, a subsidiary of Strauss Industries, is set to redevelop the site with a $15 million investment as an industrial park and creating 50 new jobs in the process. The industrial park will support the needs of metal recycling and shale gas operations.”

Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi called the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund, “definitely good news because big plans are in place for that 130-acre site.”

Petrossi said the property will be redeveloped with a multimodal transfer and processing facility to support mid stream shale gas operations.

“The facility should be under construction this summer and operational by the fourth quarter of 2014,” said Petrossi.

“This is a huge site with lots of economic development potential. It has two railroad lines, the highway and access to the Ohio River. This $1 million investment will help get the site ready for development. The Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission did a lot of work on the asbestos remediation study that made this possible. And River Rail Development has made a substantial investment in the property and has plans for the future that will benefit the city,” added Petrossi.

“Redevelopment of the overall River Rail property is expected to generate approximately 50 new jobs. Additional jobs are expected as the property is redeveloped and leased. Property redevelopment is also expected to generate income and property tax benefits for the city as well,” said Petrossi.

“The River Rail Development Corp. has already spent $1.2 million for environmental studies and remediation. They plan to clean up the site and prepare it for future development. This is an excellent use for the brownfield grant. We may look at future grants for the site. The funds were applied for by the city but there is no expense to the city to apply for this grant,” added Petrossi.

The Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council approved the application for the Clean Ohio Assistance Funds in January.

Petrossi said several industrial buildings and structures are in deteriorating condition.

“The cleanup will include proper removal and disposal of asbestos material in accordance with applicable local, state and federal regulations followed by the demolition of the structures to clear the property for redevelopment,” remarked Petrossi.

“This goes to show that with collaboration we can accomplish economic development for Eastern Ohio. This is an opportunity for a $15 million project. We hope to continue playing a role in helping our area move forward,” said Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Domenick Mucci.

Mucci said his agency worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 on the asbestos identification project.

“This is a major start to seeing benefits from our brownfield sites,” noted Mucci.

“This is a excellent opportunity for the city to expand economic development in the city. We are proud to be able to partner with Strauss Industries for the redevelopment of the old RG steel property,” stated City Manager Cathy Davison.

Petrossi said the property originally was developed in 1856 by the Jefferson Iron Works as a steel manufacturing facility.

The LaBelle Iron Works later purchased the property and then merged with two other companies in 1920 to form the Wheeling Steel Corp.

Several mergers and corporate bankruptcies saw River Rail purchase the property in 2012 in order to develop an industrial park for Strauss Industries to conduct metal scrap processing and logistic activities, said Petrossi.

Telephone messages left at Strauss Industries and River Rail Development were not returned.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com)