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Girard to seek $500K in EPA funds to clean up Leatherworks

GIRARD — The city once again will seek $500,000 in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funding to help with the brownfield remediation at the former Ohio Leatherworks property off North State Street.

City council on Monday approved a resolution to apply for federal and state grants for the brownfield remediation and allocating matching funds through the EPA’s Build Grant Program.

Mayor James Melfi said the city is working with the Trumbull County Planning Commission and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber in seeking the funds.

“This will be our second attempt at securing this half-a-million-dollar grant for the remediation work,” he said.

Melfi said the goal is to clean up the property for creating a commerce park at the site with the possibility of a bike trail on the property because the Mahoning River is nearby.

“Recreation will be a part of the site, but our main goal is to develop business commerce at the site,” Melfi said.

Councilwoman Lily Martuccio, chair of the economic development committee, said the city is reapplying for the same $500,000 grant it tried to get last year for the project. She said the city missed getting the grant and is reapplying with assistance from other agencies.

Lauren Johnson, 422 Corridor and Business Development manager for the chamber, said remediation helps with cleaning up any chemicals, materials or other remains from the long-closed Ohio Leatherworks structure.

“When we applied last year we received good constructive feedback which will help us with this year’s application, which is due in October,” Johnson said.

Julie Green, Trumbull County Planning Commission executive director, said the remediation project costs about $600,000.

She said discussion has focused on potential projects and use of the property. Green said studies already have been done on the property for best uses through an assessment grant obtained by the Western Reserve Port Authority. A grant from the port authority is helping to clear the property of debris and any contaminants.

A comprehensive plan prepared by the planning commission in 2000 included acquiring more greenspace for the city’s recreational areas.

The city acquired the 27-acre Ohio Leatherworks property in 2013 after 20 years of litigation.

The city did not pay to acquire the site but settled with the former owner. The city released the ex-owner from a lien on the property, which was then deeded to the city at no cost, Melfi has said.

Melfi said the city is trying to acquire additional land near the property from the Ohio Central Railroad. It’s currently in litigation with a decision or settlement expected, he said. That 42-acre banana-shaped site is near the railroad.

He said whatever the city would do would not interfere with railroad operations.

Melfi said the bike trail would be a spur to the larger Lake to River Greenway Trail.

Officials have said the Ohio Leatherworks is one of the most famous businesses in Girard’s history and many current seniors and immigrants who came to the area worked there. The guard house is still on the site.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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