Yemma decries end of Clean Ohio funds

By Peter H. Milliken


Mahoning County Treasurer Daniel R. Yemma decries what he says may be the demise next year of the Clean Ohio Revitalization Program, which helps remove environmental contaminants and reclaim old industrial sites for new uses.

Yemma expressed his concerns in a letter to Gov. John Kasich; and the Mahoning County commissioners concurred with Yemma’s sentiments Thursday.

“Without the Clean Ohio program, progress on brownfield redevelopment and open space preservation in our area will abruptly cease,” Yemma wrote to the governor this week. The last scheduled and fully funded round of the program will be in January 2012, Yemma said.

Without the state’s help, nothing would be done with contaminated industrial sites, because local jurisdictions can’t afford the high costs of cleanup, Yemma told the commissioners.

“If we’re going to promote economic development in this area, then we need help,” from the state and federal governments, said Commissioner Carol Rimedio- Righetti.

“It kills development in our community,” Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti said of the potential demise of Clean Ohio.

“It would be a shame for this program to come to an end,” said John A. McNally IV, chairman of the commissioners.

Because of the use of nearly $14 million in Clean Ohio funds, more than 460 acres of former industrial land along the Mahoning River are “in various stages of environmental assessment and remediation,” Yemma wrote to the governor.

Yemma told the governor the Mahoning Valley is plagued with an “overabundance of vacant and abandoned tax-delinquent commercial and residential properties” and that the Valley is striving to “create jobs and opportunities on previously neglected or unused properties.”

The governor’s press secretary, Rob Nichols, confirmed that funding for Clean Ohio will cease on June 30, 2012, if no new action is taken.

However, Nichols added: “We share the understanding of Clean Ohio’s value and support continuing to be able to perform these valuable functions. As we transition from state-run job-growth efforts to efforts run by the private-sector experts at Jobs Ohio, every function is being evaluated to determine the best way to do it going forward.”

Created by a bond issue in 2002, with voters approving $400 million in continuing support six years later, Clean Ohio is funded by bonds issued against profits from Ohio liquor operations, including liquor-license fees.

J. Robert Lyden, Mahoning County sanitary engineer, noted that a $1 million sewer-system improvement project is under way in Campbell to service the industrial area along the Mahoning River. “Clean Ohio is essential to redeveloping that property,” Lyden said.

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