Chester frustrated with lack of development

CHESTER – Interest in the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site has been steady in the past year, but no company has been the right fit for Chester, city council learned on Monday.

Most businesses that have expressed an interest in the TS&T site are not interested in a long-term relationship with the city, said Marvin Six, assistant director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle.

“Most of them are 90-day relationships,” Six said, referring to companies who want land to use as a staging area for oil and gas drilling activities.

“We want a long-term relationship with the community for occupancy of that site,” Six told city council on Monday. “It has to be the right fit for the community.”

Six’s remarks were in response to questions from city council members about joining the BDC, the recognized economic development authority for Hancock and Brooke counties.

Council voted 3-2 in favor of a motion by Councilman Brian Handley to join the BDC, but only after some expressions of frustration at the slow pace of economic development in West Virginia’s northernmost city.

“We haven’t really been aggressive in trying to attract new business and marketing the town,” Handley said. “I brought this up now because, in a few months, we’re going to be back to talking about high grass and weeds.”

Mayor Ken Morris also sounded a note of frustration, specifically at the lack of development since the TS&T site was declared clean in December 2012.

“It’s been two years. Do you see anything coming in and doing anything?” Morris said.

Six said the BDC has received and vetted 25 inquiries about TS&T, including one company whose traffic would have numbered 60 tractor-trailers a day.

“We felt that wasn’t appropriate for the side streets,” he said.

The BDC bought the eight-and-a-half-acre site from Dietz Enterprises for $135,000 in June 2011. The TS&T property had sat vacant and blighted for about 30 years, ever since its closing by Anchor Hocking in 1981.

Cleanup of the site, including the remediation of large amounts of asbestos, began in April 2012 and took until the end of the year. In total, local and state officials obtained $1.1 million in funding to pay for the demolition, cleanup and remediation work.

Also Monday, council:

Opened three bids for a new street department snowplow truck: Myers Equipment Co. ($64,944), Grand Ford ($65,333), and Hill International Trucks ($81,293 and $79,730).

Agreed to close Fourth Street, between Carolina and Indiana avenues, from June 23-28 for the Chester Volunteer Fire Department’s Oldtime Street Fair – in celebration of the department’s 100th anniversary.

Appointed Randy Friley as chairman of the Fourth of July committee.

Reappointed Rusty Smith, Ron Miller and Gary Stevens to the water board.

Accepted the resignation of Tom Toman as crossing guard and appointed Donnie Hyatt to the position.

Agreed to solicit three bids for repairs to sections of the Carolina Avenue sidewalk.

Hired Teed & Associates to conduct a three-year audit of the city at a cost of $12,000.

Went into executive session to discuss police personnel matters.

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