Bart Hamilton

Richland County Land Bank board chair Bart Hamilton speaks to Mansfield City Council on Tuesday evening. Hamilton, also the county treasurer, asked the city to commit to spend $1 million over the next 18 months to help tear down and remediate former Westinghouse properties on the city's east side.

MANSFIELD -- Richland County Land Bank board chair Bart Hamilton on Tuesday asked Mansfield City Council to commit $1 million to demolish and remediate two former Westinghouse properties on the city's east side.

"You get Westinghouse torn down at a 75 percent discount," Hamilton said. "You are never going to get a deal this good again."

Hamilton said in September that the state's two-year budget set aside $500 million for demolition and brownfield remediation.

Each of the state's 88 counties is guaranteed $1.5 million from that fund ($500,000 in demolition funds and $1 million in brownfield remediation dollars), leaving $368 million "up for grabs" for projects.

Building on Westinghouse property

The former Westinghouse "A" building at 200 Fifth St. is being planned for demolition and brownfield remediation. (Richland Source file photo)

The long-anticipated cleanup and potential redevelopment of the former Westinghouse sites is part of $7.7 million in projects for which the Land Bank has applied in the first round of funding, efforts that include the planned demolition of the former Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center.

Hamilton estimated the Westinghouse project will cost $5 million, though he admitted true costs won't be determined until the work begins and potential contaminants are found.

He said the guaranteed $1 million from the Ohio Department of Development will go to the effort and the remaining $4 million being sought in a grant must include a 25-percent local match.

Work must by complete by the end of June 2023.

Hamilton, who said county commissioners guaranteed the match to allow the Land Bank to apply for the grant last month, said no immediate City Council decision was required.

Westinghouse slab

The Richland County Land Bank recently accepted the donation of the 13-acre "concrete jungle" once owned by Westinghouse on the city's east side. (Richland Source file photo)

"Commissioners do not want to spend $1 million (on the Westinghouse project)," Hamilton said.

He encouraged council and Mayor Tim Theaker to "strategize" the best funding sources. Those could include the city's PRIDE tax funds, an income tax that includes more than $800,000 annually for building demolitions. The city may also consider American Rescue Plan Act funds.

One possibility, Hamilton said, would be for council to set aside $500,000 in PRIDE tax funds at its Feb. 1 meeting and then add more funds at a later date.

He said he didn't know how much the city had in its PRIDE account at this point, but this strategy would not immediately tie up $1 million, perhaps impacting other needed demolition work.

"There is not a $1 million bill at this point," Hamilton said. "There will be a lot of smaller bills (as work proceeds.)"

He pointed out demolishing the former Ocie Hill Neighborhood Center will cost an estimated $2 million and it doesn't appear the city can legally use PRIDE funds to tear down a building it once owned.

In turn, Hamilton said the county could likely supply the needed match for the demolition of the historic property at 445 Bowman Street.

Council took no action Tuesday on the legislation, which had no dollar amount listed by the city administration, and unanimously agreed to move the matter to its Feb. 1 meeting.

The meeting Tuesday was the first for new council members Aurelio Diaz (5th Ward) and Rev. El Akuchie (3rd Ward). Council members Laura Burns (1st Ward) and Phil Scott (At-large) were absent from council chambers and were excused by council vote.

Burns attended the meeting via Zoom, but only in-person members can vote.

Also on Tuesday, City Council:

-- discussed during caucus spending $352,318 on new main computer server hardware for the city.  According to proposed legislation "the main server hardware utilized by all city departments is inefficient and obsolete." The city would pay for the new Dell equipment using a portion of the $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act revenue replacement funds that City Council agreed to set aside last fall. A vote on the proposal is planned for council's next meeting on Jan. 18.

-- discussed during caucus two bills related to the construction and inspection of phase one of the West End Neighborhood Plan. The legislation calls for spending up to $1,250,000 for the construction work and $125,000 for the inspection after its complete.

The plan, created by EDGE Landscape, Architecture, Urban Design and Planning, is aimed at improving an area whose geographic boundaries are generally Marion Avenue/Park Avenue West to the west and north; South Main Street to the east; and Glessner Avenue to the south.

The first phase of the project will improve Glessner Avenue between Wood Street and Sturges and Arthur avenues. The bulk of the money for the project is coming via the city's federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

-- approved legislation that would allow Theaker to sign contracts on behalf of the city due to the fact Public Works Director Dave Remy is now also filling the role of safety-service director.

 

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"