CHESTER - The grant application from the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle for cleanup of the former Taylor Smith and Taylor pottery site is one of the strongest applications the staff of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center has ever seen, said Patrick Ford, BDC executive director.
Ford said Sunday the BDC staff sent out the grant application to the Environmental Protection Agency by express mail on Wednesday, well in advance of today's deadline.
"We do have a very strong application," said Ford. "What made it such a strong application are the many people who invested a lot of time and effort into preparing it."
Ford said the BDC submitted a grant application for an estimated $200,000 to remove the asbestos and the construction waste that is above the surface on the 9-acre site "to take it down to level and have nothing on the site."
He commended city Clerk Sandi Parkins for her work in pulling together city and community information, and everyone else who worked long hours for several days to prepare the application. Ford said his staff worked late several days last week, as did the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center staff.
"We needed to make sure all the I's were dotted and all the T's were crossed," Ford said.
A requirement of the grant application, for example, was for the BDC to include in writing all its responses to citizens' questions and concerns posed during the public comment period.
"It was not uncommon for Luke (Elser) and I to be exchanging e-mails at 2 and 3 in the morning," Ford said. "We made sure we responded to every comment that was received."
Elser is project manager of the NBAC, based at West Virginia University.
Ford said the EPA will announce the grant awards in the spring. Meanwhile, Ford said he and Marvin Six, BDC assistant director, and the rest of the staff will continue working with the NBAC and the citizens and city officials of Chester in moving the project forward.
"At the BDC we pride ourselves in being responsible and transparent in everything we do," Ford said. "We have board members who represent business interests and communities in the Northern Panhandle, and we are sensitive to that. Every step is calculated and well thought out."
The goal of the BDC, Ford said, is to find a use for the site that the market can support, a use that will create jobs and expand the tax base. "We want to compliment and augment business and industry, and the quality of life in the Northern Panhandle," he said.
Ford and Six will continue to work with the Hancock County Commission to remediate the site. They are working on a request for proposals from contractors qualified to clean up the site. The BDC also will continue to work with the Chester community and the citizens group, the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.
"We are maintaining our relationship with the community and the committee to find a use for the site that the community wants and the market can support," Ford concluded.