Asbestos contamination of tile adhesives in the old hospital building might delay transfer of the property to the Board of Education, the Hampshire County Development Authority was told at its meeting last Wednesday.
Fortunately, the problem was resolved by the end of the meeting.
Demolition at the old hospital site had been paused after the contractor became suspicious of additional contaminants on the hospital site and sent samples to three different labs. There were discrepancies in the results, with some indicating asbestos in the black glue under the floor tiles.
The state Department of Environmental Protection offered to test everything at no cost to the HCDA and had collected samples the previous week. If all the floor tiles were found to be contaminated, it could drive project costs up as much as another $400,000, Johnson said.
Thrasher Group project engineer Patricia Escoriaza was assuring everyone that they were working “to the utmost of their capabilities” to complete the project on time when Johnson received a message on her phone from DEP Brownfields Program Manager Erin Brittain.
Brittain had good news: the DEP had received the test results, and all samples were negative. The demolition contractor could resume work.
Superintendent of Schools Jeff Pancione, who attended the meeting with Board of Education President Ed Morgan, expressed frustration at the delay, pointing out construction was underway at the other two new schools, and people were losing patience.
Morgan added the contractor for the construction of the South Branch Elementary School was getting nervous, and Pancione pointed out that further delays would leave them trying to figure out what to do with students from the two schools.
He added that the costs of any delays would eventually impact school children because the budget would have to be cut somewhere. Johnson assured him no further delays are expected.
It was the first HCDA meeting attended by Jon Todd “J.T.” Hott, who will take over as the executive director when HCDA Executive Director Johnson retires at the end of June. The Board thanked the county commission for providing funds for Johnson to remain in the office for a while to provide guidance as Hott takes on his new responsibilities.
Hott said he went off to North Carolina to play football after graduating from HHS in 1989. He met his wife there, and they agreed to raise their children in North Carolina before retiring to West Virginia. His wife has another year to go before joining him.
In other business, Capon Bridge attorney Logan Mantz reported that the town hoped to close on the transfer of Capon Bridge Technical Park utilities quickly so as not to interfere with Aquabanq’s purchase of a lot in the park for its shrimp farming operation.
Mantz said two things remained to be done, the town’s renegotiation of water rights with the Department of Natural Resources, for which they now had a memorandum of intent, and a new agreement with Central Hampshire PSD, with whom they would be meeting June 6.
The county commission had questioned the price set on the property Capon Bridge wished to purchase from the HCDA for a bulk water plant to be built with county American Rescue Plan funds to bring in revenue to offset the costs of setting up and operating CBTP utilities.
Johnson said the property was priced at the value given on the asset sheet prepared by their accountants, with no markup. She noted a structure on the property is insured for $240,000 and pointed out they were willing to sell the property while retaining the debt still owed on it.
The new HCDA website is up and running, and HCDA Marketing Committee Chair Rebecca Hott reported the day after the meeting that Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation Executive Director Sara Dearing said Hampshire County has the best economic development website in the entire state.
Dearing had seen the website at the 2023 SelectUSA Investment Summit at National Harbor in early May. Johnson said Rebecca Hott had been remarkably effective at the event, attracting investors from as far away as Sweden to consider locating in Hampshire County,
State Rail Authority Executive Director Cindy Butler agreed in a May 11 meeting to prepare a cost-benefit analysis for bringing a rail spur with a freight loading dock into the Romney Business Park, Johnson said. The study will take about six months and should greatly improve the HCDA’s chances in the next round of the U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) Transportation Grants.
Johnson reported that Aquabanq will hold a June 8 “ground-breaking” ceremony at Hawthorn House in Summit Point, a few miles west of Charles Town, for lack of a suitable venue closer to their planned installation in Capon Bridge. She added that they plan an event specifically for the local community at a later date.
Health Department Director Tamitha Wilkins announced the county had no Covid deaths in April. They are now vaccinating people 65 and over or immunocompromised who were last vaccinated more than four months ago.
Wilkins added that she had “two very good prospects” she would be interviewing for the vacancy for a nurse on her staff. Money from a CDC grant to strengthen and retain staff will help with salaries.
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