Meridian Plant Property in Jackson Progressing

The ongoing remediation project to clean up a portion of the former Meridian Plant property in Jackson is progressing well and should be completed before the end of the year with the objective of making the site ready for a jobs-creating tenant.

Jackson County Economic Development Partnership (JCEDP) Executive Director Sam Brady presided with an on-site progress report on Monday morning, Sept. 23, with contractors, economic development officials, Jackson County Commissioners, Jackson city officials, and local media members among those in attendance.

Brady and other officials who spoke during the event spoke positively of the progress, the excellent cooperation among JCEDP, Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG), city and county officials and contractors. The amount of oil and contaminants was less than expected, and the weather has been dry and therefore favorable for excavation types of work taking place. On the negative side, work crews have encountered more underground concrete and reinforced steel rebar that must be removed. However, the bottom line is that the project has been successful to this point and should be completed no later than the end of the year.

The site has been unoccupied since 2007 when the former Meridian Plant closed with several hundred full-time, living-wage jobs lost in the process. The main plant building was later demolished to make the site more marketable to future tenants. The site itself is considered to be prime for development because of the availability of its geographic locations to markets, the existing presence of needed utilities, and its ready access to major highways and rail service.

However, a major stumbling block was the suspected presence of underground hydraulic oil and other contaminants which had possibly escaped into the soil in the area around the demolished main building. Until expensive cleanup and remediation work could be accomplished, the site would remain unusable.

A major breakthrough occurred when JCEDP announced late last year that it had been awarded a $1.8-million state grant from JobsOhio for the purchase, remediation and development of a portion of the former Meridian property. The grant enabled JCEDP to purchase a 22.3-acre tract from its longtime owner, the Jackson CIC, which did not have the money for a major remediation/cleanup project.

JCEDP worked with JobsOhio regional network partner, the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth (APEG) for a site redevelopment grant, which is part of a pilot program. A crucial contribution that made the grant possible was $142,500 in funding from Fluor BWXT Portsmouth which served as a needed local match.

Contracts were awarded early in the summer and a formal groundbreaking ceremony was conducted on June 20. Tetra Tech of Cincinnati is acting as the main contractor as well as the technical consultant for JCEDP on the project.

As of Sept. 18, Brady reports 2,019 tons of contaminated soil, sediment and concrete have been disposed of at a local landfill. Also, 27 machine pits have been demolished, remediated and backfilled and 6,600 cubic yards of clean concrete have been removed from footers and the foundation for recycling.

“We’re pleased with how it’s going,” Tetra Tech Program Manager Matt Wagner stated.

Wagner noted that the project realized a major savings when local concrete supplier, Towpath Ready Mix brought a concrete crusher to the site, which he estimates has saved $100,000, which can be used for additional work. Another positive development was the City of Jackson getting a technical assistance grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), which has enabled Tetra Tech to front-end some of the required involvement with OEPA.

“We thank the City of Jackson, the Mayor and the Service Director,” Wagner said. “We work hand in hand with the EPA and this gained us two months.”

George Andres of the Ohio South Central Railroad, which operated a short-line railroad in Jackson County, reported that his company is rebuilding a spur into the site to provide easy access to rail service. He added that the company is upgrading much of the short-line track in Jackson, Vinton and Ross counties.

APEG Project Manager Taylor Stepp pointed out the project was a vital and necessary step toward making the property ready to serve as a site for a tenant that would bring jobs to the local area. He complimented Brady, the commissioners and all those involved for the behind-the-scenes work and cooperation to make the project possible and noted there were risks involved in making the major investment.

“We want a new user to create jobs,” Stepp commented. “Now, there will be no time lag and we can better leverage this site for a productive use. I look forward to a ribbon-cutting.”

Brady added, “This is a great site — and there is risk. But we couldn’t afford not to do it.”

Jackson Mayor Randy Heath agreed, noting that the site “has always garnered statewide attention” as a prime spot for industrial development, and he thanked the state economic development officials for choosing to make the investment in the site.

Jackson County Commissioner Paul Haller praised the cooperative effort involved. “Multiple people and organizations have been involved. This has been a team project that we hope will pay dividends in the near future.”

Brady concluded, “We are looking forward to making this a jobs-creating asset again for this community.”

From The Telegram  |  September 28, 2019