By Sean Rice
Celina is moving to assist an Ohio non-profit group and a local construction company redevelop the former Mersman factory site.
Celina officials are applying for $1.8 million dollars from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Clean Ohio Fund grant program to assist Rockford Construction Services (RCS) level the site.
Also, a new non-profit corporation is being created locally to assist with the Mersman project, and later, property maintenance efforts across the city.
Kent Bryan, a contracted development consultant for Celina, told city council members during a committee-of-the-whole meeting last week he will be creating the Celina Housing and Economic Development Corporation. The agency will not be part of Celina's government, but can bring investment deals to benefit the city without direct city involvement, he explained.
The not-for-profit agency was included in a tax credit application from Buckeye Community Hope Foundation as a local participant in the Mersman project. Plans for the site include a seniors living center and a subdivision of starter homes. City officials said four "hot spots" were discovered during months of environmental studies at the former furniture factory site. They expressed surprise that more contamination was not found. Minor excavation work is needed to remove the hot spots, but they are not located on property of the first phase of development.
The Mersman site is located north of Livingston Street, south of Wayne Street and east of Brandon Street. RCS is not yet in control of the entire project site. On the southern portion of the site is a former canning factory owned by The Daily Standard Printing Co. and Alumacast, a firm owned by Richard Kaylor.
Bryan said he is working to relocate Alumacast to the Celina Industrial Park, off state Route 29. The city then could purchase the land and resell it to a developer.
Owners of The Daily Standard are not ready to sell their portion of the site, Bryan reported.
As for required matching funds for the Clean Ohio grant, Bryan said the city can leverage in-kind work, the property purchase and work completed by RCS, instead of cash.
Council member Angie King questioned why the project is on a fast track, another member asked what happens if the $1.3 million grant falls through.
RCS co-owner Randy Bruns said the project is moving along because it takes "six figures" to maintain the Mersman buildings every year.
If the grant were denied, RCS would ask Celina to provide cash assistance, as much as $900,000 Bruns said.
Though council members differed in the discussion of whether council would approve that sum, Bryan said the tax increment financing (TIF) district recently created around the site could provide a large sum over a number of years.
Council would need to approve a loan against the TIF fund, if plans were made now based on the future income of the district.