Highland County Land Bank Council Takes First Steps in Grant Application Process

At a special meeting on January 6, the board of directors of the Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation took the first steps in its effort to seek recently announced public funding, with the intention of meeting again at least two times this month as they face their first deadline.

The board of directors voted Thursday morning to recommend that the county enter into an agreement to work with the land bank on the brownfield remediation program application process and voted to enter into a non-binding agreement with Matt Wagner to TetraTech as a consultant for this application.

Highland County Community Action Organization Housing Director Mark Current told the Board of Directors he called the meeting out of concern to meet the deadlines for applying for the Brownfield Remediation Grant industrial. The Ohio governor’s office released information on the program, as well as the building demolition and site revitalization program, in December.

For both programs, Current pointed out that there was a “very quick turnaround time,” including the first of three application rounds for the Brownfield Remediation Program scheduled for Jan. 31.

Current gave a brief overview of the two grant programs. For the brownfield remediation grant, $ 1 million is set aside for each county, and $ 500,000 is set aside for the building demolition and site revitalization program. Additional funds for both programs are available on a first come, first served basis with a 25 percent match requirement.

The brownfield grant applies to “abandoned, unused or underutilized industrial, commercial or institutional property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by known or potential releases of hazardous substances or petroleum.” The other grant can be used for commercial or residential properties other than brownfields. The Land Reserve is the “main entity” for the building demolition and site revitalization program, while the Brownfield Remediation Grant is open to “local government units” but may go through a land reserve. .

“Of the two, the land bank or the brownfield concession administrator does not need to own or acquire the property,” Current said. “They must have access.”

Current provided the board with a model memorandum of understanding between landowners and land bank boards.

For the building demolition and site revitalization program, the grant also helps cover “acquisition costs” for the land bank to purchase a property if needed.

“Acquisition costs are built in up to 10 percent,” Current said. “You can only pay the value of the auditor’s property, and you can receive donated property. “

Before he could take any action on the brownfield remediation program, Current said the board needed to determine whether the land bank or some other entity would be the applicant. As he mentioned in December, they would have to “draft an agreement” with the county if the land bank council and the council of commissioners were in favor of running the program through the HCLRC.

“The actual applicant is a government entity,” Current said. “If the land bank were to make an application on behalf of, say, commissioners, something would have to be put in place, an agreement about it. “

Jeff Duncan, land bank board member and county commissioner, said there was “an advantage to taking it through the land bank”, adding that he felt it was “the way from which we should proceed. ” The other county commissioner on the land bank board, Terry Britton, agreed.

“I think in terms of accountability it’s the smartest thing to do,” said Britton.

The rest of the board have indicated that they are in favor of the proposal.

“I think we agree that this would be the procedure we would like to follow,” Duncan said. “Now who wrote that?” “

Board member Karen Bridges said lawyer Gregory VanZant would likely be the one drafting a deal for commissioners to approve.

Current also explained the recommendation to hire a brownfield application consultant.

“In the guidelines, he recommends hiring a certified professional or company,” Current said. “They take care of the phase one and phase two evaluations. They complete the requests. They recruit and supervise contractors and tenders. The invoice for their services is given to the State to reimburse the person who administers it. No payment is made from Highland County until the refund is received.

As previously reported, the Board of Directors voted at its December 16 meeting to solicit Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) for a consultant to apply for funding for the Brownfield Remediation Program.

Current said Thursday it had placed the tender online, with TetraTech’s Matt Wagner being the only company to respond so far. Wagner has spoken to the board on several occasions, including in November, about brownfield grant opportunities as well as the state’s site demolition and revitalization program, which was also discussed on Thursday.

Later in the meeting, Current asked if the land bank’s board would be willing to vote to hire the brownfield consultant or if it was ‘I’m taking the plunge’ pending a formal deal with the county. Duncan said he believed they would “probably need a deal in place.”

“I’m just wondering if an app can even be set up this round with no one in place,” Current said. “If it was another week, we are in mid-January and in two weeks [the application is due]. ”

Board member Lauren Walker asked if Wagner would be “comfortable” completing the application in two weeks. Duncan said Current could talk to Wagner and “see if he can maybe guide us through this process.”

“Since they were the only ones who responded, I guess they will be the ones we work with,” Duncan said.

Current asked if the board “had a consensus on this” and offered to speak to Wagner. Board member Randy Mustard said he wants them to take action so they can apply for the first round of funding.

“Me too, if we can make it work,” Duncan said. “I’m not sure the 88 countries are as advanced as we are, but I think there are other countries that are more advanced than us.”

Britton added that if “we’re even going to get close to that deadline, we’re going to have to hire a company pretty quickly.” Walker suggested that they might have another special reunion, and Britton agreed, “if that’s what it takes.”

At that point, Current was able to reach Wagner on the phone and told him that the board was okay with continuing, but that they “didn’t feel able” to hire him until. the formal agreement is drafted.

“What I would recommend is to bring a motion or something to hire TetraTech knowing full well that it is not binding and that there is no associated cost, also knowing that it all depends on receiving the grants as well, ”Wagner told the board. “We can still start now. “

After the phone conversation, Duncan called for a motion that the Land Bank Board reach a deal with the Highland County Board of Commissioners, which passed 5-0.

He then called for a motion that the land bank board enter into a “soft” deal with TetraTech, pending formal agreement between the county and the land bank and subject to grant approval. This motion, introduced by Britton, was also carried 5-0.

The council also discussed potential plots to target for these applications. At the start of the meeting, Britton asked if there were any “properties qualified in these categories” pending applications. Walker, who is responsible for code enforcement for the city of Hillsboro, said the city had previously considered seeking funding to clean up the Gross-Feibel property in Hillsboro.

“There are two ways to apply for the grant, and that’s for assessment and cleanup,” Walker said. “I asked them a question because we already have a first phase [assessment], and asbestos [assessment] it’s done, on Gross-Feibel. My question to them was do we need to do an assessment for phase two, or, because there is already a brownfield situation, can we go ahead and ask for the cleanup?

“After the assessment is complete you can ask for a cleanup, but I think we can ask for a cleanup at this point, so at least that part is out of the way. “

Current and Walker both indicated that Wagner was also interested in the Gross-Feibel property.

“Is this the only brownfield site we have?” Britton asked.

Current said there were other options available, including the former Concord Township School, the former Berrysville gas station and some properties in Rocky Fork Lake, although Board members and Current seemed to agree that Gross-Feibel would be the top priority.

Britton said he was concerned about the cost of demolishing the Gross-Feibel building. Walker said she thought the city already had estimates, “but it’s definitely not a million dollars.”

“I mean, it’s going to cost a bit because this manufacturing facility had really thick walls and deep pits from the machines they had,” Britton said. “I would say it will take at least half of it, if not more.”

For the demolition and site revitalization grant, Current said he spoke to the village of Greenfield, with the former ownership of the Elliott Hotel being seen as a possibility for this funding. A plot on East Main Street in Hillsboro that has been on the land bank’s agenda in recent months is also a potential candidate, he said.

After a brief discussion of this grant, it was determined that the Board of Directors would hold another special meeting on January 13 at 9 a.m., prior to its regular meeting on January 20.

“It could give us a week here to collect documents and prepare signatures, and give Greg a chance to speak.” [VanZant]”Duncan said.”[Commisisoners] meet on the 12th, so that we can have some sort of resolution to make a deal.

“There’s going to be a lot of meetings here, but I think for a million dollars it might be beneficial.”

Current added that he would see if Wagner is also available to meet with them on January 13.

In another discussion, financial officer Beth Allering provided the board with a copy of an engagement letter from Millhuff-Stang to do the 2021 financial statements for the board, as they have done for the past two years. . The board voted 5-0 to go ahead on the letter.