By Susan Tebben
Though the company still is awaiting permits to start construction, Penn National and its contractor, Turner Construction, are making progress on the new Hollywood Slots at Mahoning Valley Race Course.
Project superintendent David Vandusen gave Austintown Township Trustee Jim Davis, zoning inspector Darren Crivelli and township fiscal officer Laura Wolfe a tour of the property, from which all trees that will be cut have been cleared.
In the next three weeks, the land will be cut and filled to level off the nearly 194 acres between state routes 46 and 11 near Interstate 80 for the buildings slated to be finished in spring of 2014.
“We’re about 80 percent done” clearing and moving the land, said Vandusen. “The colder weather is better for us because the trucks can move better when the ground is frozen.”
A long, gravel driveway leads to the entrance of the land, but off to the side is a line of trees that will stay. The trees are part of a protected wetland that will remain on the property.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency made a visit to the site last week because it was in the area investigating the D&L Energy site, where dumping was cited about 5 miles from the racino location.
“We walked the entire property, and they made sure all the orange fences were in place to protect the wetlands,” Vandusen said.
Crivelli said a zoning permit will be necessary before concrete footers can be put in place to start the construction process. Final stormwater plans still are in the process of being produced, Crivelli said.
The project has township approval, from the fiscal officer to the township trustees, who were excited by what they saw.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am. It’s unbelievable to see how far it has come, the biggest project our township has seen,” Davis said.
Davis and Crivelli said they still receive phone calls from the public asking how they can get job applications and when the facility will be opening. The financial benefits of getting more people in the job force and more people spending money will help the township even without the $2 million in licensing-transfer fees Penn National Inc. will be paying on the property.
“It gives us a lot of capability to improve our infrastructure and the monetary benefits of having people out working,” Wolfe said.
The project employs 15 to 20 crew members for the dirt work being done at the moment, a downturn from when the trees were being removed from the property. But Vandusen said the need for workers probably will go back up even before the facility construction begins.