By GRACE WYLER
The state has granted the city nearly $300,000 to do an environmental assessment of Sherman International’s Wilson Avenue property, the site of the company’s proposed steel-mill project.
The Ohio Controlling Board awarded the city $299,818 in Clean Ohio funding Monday. The funds will be used to evaluate the extent of environmental contamination on the 40-acre property, formerly part of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.’s Campbell Works.
The assessment also will include an asbestos evaluation on the property’s remaining building, as well as the installation of monitoring wells and more than 100 soil borings on the site.
The funds, given to sites with redevelopment potential, were granted because of Sherman’s interest in using the site for heavy manufacturing, according to documents from the controlling-board meeting.
Sherman has said it plans to build a cold-rolling steel mill on the site. The plant would employ 700 workers, the company said, and subsequent phases of the project would expand the mill with up to 3,500 employees.
Sherman’s plans depend on whether the city can get an additional $3 million in Clean Ohio funds to clean up the site once the environmental assessment is complete, said Mayor George Krinos.
The assessment, which will be conducted by the Akron-based Brownfield Restoration Group, is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.
Krinos said the city has not yet explored other development options if Sherman is unable or unwilling to move forward with its proposal.
“We are going to follow this step by step and do whatever it takes to get the land cleaned,” Krinos said. “When it becomes appropriate to discuss development, then we will cross that bridge.”
The company’s troubled background has raised questions about its ability to carry out plans to build a cold-rolling mill on the Campbell property. Sherman and its owners, Krishna and Om Sharma, have a history of legal and financial difficulties, including charges of criminal conspiracy related to the international shipment of potential nuclear materials.
The company remains committed to its plans for the Campbell property, said company spokesman Robert Carcelli, a former Struthers City Council president. Sherman is looking to additional state and federal funding to help with other aspects of the project, such as infrastructure improvements, Carcelli said.
“The company is willing to move forward,” he said. “They are committed to bringing a cold-rolling mill to this area.”
State Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, who has been involved with the project since January, said any redevelopment plans will depend on the results of the environmental assessment, which will determine how much money it will take to clean up the property.
“Regardless of who owns the property, securing this funding is the first step in redeveloping the land,” he said.
In other business, the controlling board approved a $287,123 in funds for improvements at Lake Milton State Park. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant will be used to construct 16 new docks, a handicap-accessible gangway, sidewalks and new lighting.
Contributor: Marc Kovac, Vindicator Columbus correspondent