More local properties being transformed by 2nd EPA grant

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, former business properties are coming back to life, thanks in large part to the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp.

At a recent EDC meeting, board members learned that another Environmental Protection Agency grant is helping transform places suspected of contamination into new property tax-paying parcels.

“This is a phenomenal tool,” EDC President Corey Murphy said. “As previously reported, we were one of seven communities in the state of Indiana to receive this funding out of the Chicago EPA region. “Rural communities typically struggle in drawing down the funds because they lack capacity to manage the program. They’re able to get the funds, but they struggle in deploying the funds. So we really appreciate Penny’s leadership on this project.”

“Penny” is now known as Professor Penny York. The EDC’s director of special projects, York recently was hired as an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan, where she will teach an economic development class starting in April.

One of the lessons could very well be grant administration to help revive brownfield properties in changing times. York said the latest grant of $400,000 is already being put to exciting use.

“We have been so busy with this EPA grant,” York said.

South Memorial Drive near Walmart, North Memorial Drive near Henry County Flooring and the 3100 block of Brown Road are all potential new-use sites, thanks to the EPA grant.

“We’re working on parcels along South Memorial Drive next to Walmart,” York said. “We’ve done a Phase I evaluation on those in preparation for development. That’s a big part of what the EPA does, develop and redevelop parcels.”

York said both a Phase I and Phase II study had been done of property deemed suitable for new use near Henry County Flooring on North Memorial Drive. “They are preparing to pull underground tanks out near the first of March,” York said.

Phase I is a computer desktop review of a property that shows if any environmental problems have been reported. Phase II occurs if there is potential contamination that needs to be reviewed.

Meanwhile another former gas station location at 3101 Brown Road has also undergone a Phase I study and getting ready for Phase II.

“The Brown Road property is being looked at by someone wanting to enlarge their business into a place where vehicles can be stored,” Myers explained.

Also, the iconic Port Hole Restaurant site on I Avenue has had a Phase I study done as well and awaits a Phase II.

So far, $100,000 of the $400,000 grant has been used to help clear the way for possible sale and redevelopment of these properties, Murphy said.

This comes on top of a $500,000 grant the EDC used to help many other properties.

“The two together represent $900,000 to help properties become taxpaying, job-producing full partners in the county,” Murphy said.

York has been busy attending town council and board meetings around the county, encouraging people there to consider the grant availability for properties that might qualify in their communities.

“We’ve not had much traction yet out in the county,” York said. “If you know of an abandoned commercial property that might benefit from this grant, please let us know so we can help get it back into use.”

For more information, contact the EDC office at 521-7412. In other business at the February EDC Board meeting, Cathy Hamilton praised the efforts of Josh Russell and the New Castle-Henry County Emergency First Aid Unit. She credited Russell for his creativity and determination to see a new home for the unit become a reality. Once part of the Stellar Communities proposal, the unit went to plan B after the county was a runner-up in that process.

Today, the unit operates out of a renovated former lumber store on Broad Street. The refurbished site offers quicker access to highways on emergency calls, has state-of-the-art equipment and classrooms for training purposes.

“We didn’t get the $22 million but there are some people who drove their projects in spite of that,” Cathy Hamilton said. “And this EMS project, it just didn’t stop. I just want to do a shout-out to Josh for his leadership. He had a good idea. He kept it going. People supported that. I have toured that facility and it is amazing. Students who going through that to get their training, they’re all over Facebook talking about how wonderful it is. I just want to say thank you Josh for not quitting just because one door closed. You looked for another door. I’m proud to know you and that we have this facility.”

– Story by Darrel Radford (DRadford@TheCourierTimes.comof The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at www.TheCourierTimes.com.

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