LISBON - The owners of the Summitville Tiles plant in Summitville are shelving plans to clean up the property for redevelopment, at least for now, because of costs and other factors.
Summitville CEO David Johnson said they are pulling the plug on the joint project with the Columbiana County Port Authority because of the projected clean up costs and changes in the state program that would have helped pay for it.
The project dates back to January 2011, when the port authority agreed to apply on Summitville's behalf for funding through the Clean Ohio Assistance Program, which provides grants to clean up abandoned industrial sites so the property can be redeveloped to create jobs. The plant has been idle since 2004.
The state awarded the port authority an initial grant of $202,000 to determine how much it would cost to demolish and remove three large tunnel kilns and three dryer kilns located at the 9-acre site. The kiln system involves a series of asbestos-lined piping, hence the possible contamination.
Once the study was complete, the port authority would be eligible to seek up to $750,000 through the Clean Ohio program to remove the asbestos and clean up the property.
Johnson, in a news release issued with his brother and fellow Summitville CEO Bruce Johnson, said the study concluded it would cost $1.2 million to $1.5 million to clean up the site.
"The company appreciates the cooperation and support of the county Port Authority and the state of Ohio through its Clean Ohio office. However, it is clear the projected costs of remediation of the Summitville tunnel kilns and dryers would be more than 10 times the costs which the company had projected based upon past experience," they wrote.
Meanwhile, the state changed how it administers the program, with Jobs Ohio taking over the Clean Ohio grant program. Under new program guidelines, jobs must be created immediately in exchange for any grant money being awarded to clean up an industrial site. Before, it was enough to clean up the property so it could be marketed for future redevelopment based on the site's potential.
"When we started the project it was a Clean Ohio project, and we proceeded with the understanding there would be money available" for the clean-up phase, said David Johnson, when contacted by phone.
While plans to redevelop the Summitville property are put on hold for now, the Johnsons said they will focus instead on investing in their Minerva plant, where 150 people work, when the economy improves.
Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake was disappointed to learn of Summitville's decision but understood why. He noted they were able to use Clean Ohio grant money to clean up the former NRM property outside Columbiana, and now the site has several businesses that employ more than 100 workers. They were hoping to do the same with the Summitville property.
"I thought Clean Ohio was one of the best programs the state had to offer, and I'm not sure the changes have made it as effective," he said.