By Timothy Cox
Celina city officials were disappointed this week after learning the city will not receive $1.7 million in Clean Ohio funding to clear most of the former Mersman Furniture Co. site for redevelopment.
Had the grant been approved by the Clean Ohio Council, it would have paved the way for the owner of the site, Brickyard Investments, to redevelop the site with new residential construction.
It remains uncertain if the city will pursue the grant again or the status of the overall redevelopment plan.
Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue, consultant Kent Bryan and Brickyard Investments representatives Randy Bruns and Jerry Butler met in Columbus this week with the Clean Ohio Council. The local project came up just short of making the list of approved projects after some scoring revisions and a vote by the council.
Only a few weeks ago, Celina officials believed the grant was a virtual certainty. In preliminary scoring of the city's application, the project was the highest-ranked in its district. Only once before had a top-ranked project failed to receive funding, Bryan said. "All indications were we were sitting in a pretty good position to get the grant," Bryan said. "But this is the first time they've used this type of scoring technique."
Bryan parsed his words when asked about the scoring changes that city officials learned about only after arriving in Columbus on Wednesday.
"I've been through many public grant sessions like this and this one was the most ... interesting," Bryan said.
City officials plan to take a week to "calm down" from the disappointment of losing out on the grant opportunity before deciding how to deal with the issue, Bryan said. City leaders hope to be able to meet with someone from the Clean Ohio staff to discuss where the city's application might have fallen short and how the project could possibly be enhanced to help secure future funding.
The project would have helped fund the demolition and environmental cleanup of the former furniture factory complex. The project included most of the buildings at the site except for the blue Alumacast plant at the corner of Livingston Street and Brandon Avenue and a former cannery building owned by Standard Printing Co.