Muncy Borough to target cleanup funds with county
WILLIAMSPORT – Muncy borough continues to be a playing partner with the EPA as they explore funding possiblities for revitalization. Earlier this month, some borough officials were part of a community outreach meeting held at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport. They were joined by Lycoming County Commissioners and representatives from the City of Williamsport.
An environmental assessment was presented for the reuse of underutilized property known as Brownfields.
Using the Pajama Factory as an example of a revitalized property, County Commissioner Jack McKernan highlighted the progress so far and the leveraging of resources of three different properties in the county – the former Brodart building in Newberry, Kohl’s and Wegman’s, and the Kennedy/King housing complex.
Clean up funding through the EPA is available and the Muncy Borough, as a primary partner with the county’s “Brownfield Action Team” is looking into funding opportunities for the old Mozley Opera House.
The EPA describes a Brownfield as a “real property for the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance.”
Bill Kelley, formerly with the county planning department, announced that a grant was obtained in 2005 from EPA for phase one which identified 50 sites that also included Hughesville, Montgomery, and Jersey Shore. “The future holds potential for more housing,” said Kim Wheeler with Lycoming County Planning and Community Development. Brodart was an anchor for rejuvenating a neighborhood and now has 40 apartments. Rental rehabilitation programs have been a common use for properties, investing $2.85 million so far according to Wheeler.
A grant for $550,000 was used for hazardous and petroleum sites, cleanup and planning, public health safety and adding social benefits for communities. Working under the Brownfields Coalition are members of the county, the borough of Muncy and the City of Williamsport. The former Barto Tire and Auto on Route 405 in Hughesville was identified as a Brownfield and is now the district magistrate office. The River Walk Senior Center in S. Williamsport was another specified example.
The Coalition continues to make assessments of properties and priority site considerations that will have the highest economic impact in the area.
The Muncy Borough tore down the old Myers Auto building on the corner of Main and Water Streets which had some industrial staining, lead base paint, and asbestos. Borough Manager, Bill Ramsey presented the phases of the Brownfield project which led to razing the building and paving the way for a safer intersection. The field work also identified above ground storage tanks. “Petroleum was used here for lubricants. It is an old building,” Ramsey said. The foundation was structurally unsound from all the truck traffic. Working with the county and PennDot in Phase 2, the Muncy Borough is looking for more funding for improvements for the old Opera House, and the grassy knoll left behind that is now a “pocket park.”
“There is a lot of potential here,” Ramsey added.
Mark Winkelman, owner of the Pajama Factory attested that rent is cheaper here. “Artists and entrepreneurs from New York like to come here,” he said. “The EPA is very favorable to turning mill space over to incubator spaces.”
A new funding round is in place for Brownfield grants, sometime in the fall, which includes clean up money and a revolving loan fund for the county to pursue. Fifty-five million has been set aside for Brownfields with some political pressure for the funding. “It is a very competitive process,” said Jenny Picciano, community and economic development planner.
Muncy Borough can apply for clean up money, up to $200,000 per site. Lycoming County can apply for a revolving loan and sub-divide it to other eligible municipalities and private owners. Muncy is eligible because the borough owns the property.
Wheeler added that the Mozley Opera House would be a catalyst site and is under consideration for Brownfield EPA funding.