Jul 28, 2014
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Council Votes to Buy Former RB&W Site on Mogadore Road

Vacant former manufacturing site is in the midst of an Ohio EPA monitored cleanup

By the end of the year, Kent may be able to add another brownfield with redevelopment potential to the city's land bank.

Kent City Council voted Wednesday to buy the former RB&W site at 800 Mogadore Road from owner Thomas & Betts Corp., of Memphis, TN, for $1.

But there are a few asterisks on the deal.

The sale of the 17.7 acres to the city depends on if the city is successful in obtaining state money from the Clean Ohio Fund Brownfield Revitalization program to clean up some remaining contaminants in the property's soil.

The deadline for filing the Clean Ohio Fund application is July 18.

"We wouldn’t execute the purchase agreement without having the grant funds," Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said.  “It is a competitive process. It’s still not 100 percent."

For years, , various firms at 800 Mogadore Road used questionable oil management practices. Methods for containing oil used in the manufacturing processes there ranged from old railroad tank cars buried underground to open-air oil lagoons.

The result was severely contaminated soil and groundwater that the past few property owners have spent decades trying to clean.

Close to 30,000 tons of contaminated soil have been removed from the property as part of the recent demolition of the manufacturing plant. The , but recent data from groundwater test wells has shown . The containment system, an underground, clay slurry wall, that were intended to be forever sealed behind the wall.

The move to buy the former RB&W site comes a little more than two months after on Lake Street. The AMETEK deal was done to bring the firm's employees into downtown Kent as part of the city's redevelopment project. The city will pay $106,000 to inherit the AMETEK property and any contaminants at the complex, which has been a manufacturing center since the early 1900s. The city has already set aside $500,000 in addition to the purchase price to deal with any necessary brownfield remediation.

Kent Law Director Jim Silver said the RB&W property situation is very different from the AMETEK deal.

"We know a whole lot more about (the RB&W) property than we knew about the AMETEK property, and the comfort level is pretty good with the money that’s available for the cleanup process," Silver said. "So this one seems to be, knock on wood, pretty safe."

Smith said the RB&W deal also differs from the AMETEK deal because no jobs are being immediately retained or created.

"But at the same time, we haven’t put a lot of money out on this" RB&W deal, Smith said.

For decades, the EPA has tracked the cleanup efforts at the former RB&W site. Most recently, Mentor-based HzW Environmental Consultants have managed the remediation for Thomas & Betts. HzW President Matt Knecht gave Kent Patch a recent tour of the site and explained that, aside from the slurry wall issue, the only remaining cleanup issue is a spot near the south entrance where two, 10,000-gallon oil tanks once were buried underground.

That area has to undergo one more round of soil testing to make sure it complies with standards set by the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations, and then Thomas Betts Corp. can obtain a "no further action" letter  — essentially a "clean" bill of health document from the EPA — for that portion of the site.

"This is the last piece," Knecht said of the oil tank issue. "We don't expect any problems."

Once that area is addressed, the overall property is one step closer to getting a "covenant not to sue" letter from the EPA that would clear much of the property for sale and eventual redevelopment.

That's where the city comes in. If Kent is successful in getting Clean Ohio Fund grant money, the city can use the money — potentially up to $2 million — to examine and fix any problems with the slurry wall.

"There’s an awful lot of work to be done," Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said. "But the good news is the state seems to have funds available."

Knecht said the goal of Thomas & Betts Corp. all along has been to correctly address the remediation and return the site to productive use. The only portion of the land that cannot ever be disturbed is the 1.4-acre, capped area at the southern end where the slurry wall encloses several former open-air oil lagoons

Smith said the property has a lot of redevelopment potential varying from expansion of the or sale to a private company for redevelopment.

He credited Thomas & Betts Corp. for having spent as much as $2 million already cleaning the site. That money already spent can be credited as local match money for the Clean Ohio Fund grant.

"As we all know, traditional manufacturing wasn’t very sensitive to taking care of the environment," Smith said. "There’s still a lot that has to be done."

Smith said as part of the deal the city would never be fully responsible in any future legal issues should other environmental problems arise.

"I think it's a win-win in a lot of ways," Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said.

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