Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin attended November’s meeting of the Highland County Land Reutilization Corporation (land bank) to discuss his concerns about the Brownfield Grant project and its relations to the Elliott Hotel that partially collapsed in August of 2021 and has since been taken down.
Wilkin said a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed for the Elliott Hotel to be demolished, but only an environmental review was done.
“And, so, it’s concerning to me, when we have a signed MOU, as to, one, why we weren’t communicated with, because when the announcement came out at $19,000 for environmental review, I thought that’s a pretty good demo cost,” Wilkin said. “Because the cost that we got was $50,000. Well, that’s pretty good. But it was for environmental review, not what we needed. So, when we finally learned that the land bank was not applying on behalf of Greenfield, we had to put it back out for bid in August of this year. We got another bid of $80,000, so it went up by $30,000 from January to August. And, again, the letter kind of spells everything out. So, we got a bid of $80,000, the budget that the land bank was working with was $331,000 to tear down the Elliott (Hotel). That’s too much. That’s way too much money.”
Wilkin said there was no communication pertaining to the application submitted for the village of Greenfield and the Elliott Hotel. He said when the village was awarded the money for the environmental review, it was never told what it “was going after” while half of the hotel was already on the ground.
“The decision was made by I don’t know who,” Wilkin said. “I don’t know if it’s the land bank board. I don’t know if it was the previous administrator, but I have an email with her exact words of “I suggest we stop the work on the Elliott, do not apply for any more money on that project and use what we would have used for the Elliott on the truck stop. That’s not Greenfield’s decision and I don’t think it was the land bank’s decision either as far as the board and that’s concerning to me because there was no communication.”
Wilkin also said that the village applied for $300,000 of money from the Brownfield Grant for Phase One Assessment at the power plate there.
Terry Britton, a Highland County commissioner and member of the land bank board, and Lauren Walker, the city of Hillsboro’s representative on the land bank board, both said the application from Greenfield came as a surprise to them, with it being $300,000 of the $1 million portion of money for the Brownfield Grant.
“I don’t want to argue with you, I really don’t,” Britton said. “But, you know just as well as I do, if you take $300,000 out of that million, and that’s the pot we was working with, then that changes the ball game.”
Wilkin said he had “many meetings” with Britton and Jeff Duncan, another commissioner and member of the land bank board, where they discussed the application and the grant program, specifically mentioning a meeting on Jan. 10, 2022.
Britton said he didn’t remember meetings happening where Wilkin said Greenfield planned to apply for $300,000 worth of the grant, with Duncan also saying he didn’t “recall” them.
In response to a question about what Wilkin was asking for at the morning’s meeting, he said he wanted the land bank to uphold the MOU it signed in January 2022. He said the village already had demolition estimates on the hotel in January 2022 and was going to move forward with demolition until the land bank reached out.
“At the time, it was Mark Current, and the next week it was Julie Bolender, and they said, “Hey, can we partner with you to tear down the Elliott Hotel?” That was the communication,” Wilkin said. “We held off. We stopped. The building would have been on the ground in January.”
Mackenzie Edison, the land bank coordinator, asked if that meant the land bank should go through with the MOU and give Greenfield $30,000 to help with the demolition to make up for the $30,000 cost difference between what the cost would have been.
However, Wilkin said that he “honestly” feels the land bank should “come up with the $80,000 to tear down the Elliott Hotel.”
Britton responded that maybe Wilkin should come up with the $300,000 “that you took from our million.”
Outside that discussion, Wilkin continued his comments pertaining to the land bank and its connection with Greenfield.
“There’s not been much success that Greenfield has had with the land bank,” he said. “Two years ago, we came and asked for assistance with properties in Greenfield and we never got a call back. We came to multiple meetings and there’s no properties that you are talking about related to Greenfield on the demo either.”
Wilkin also said he didn’t see any properties for the other grant either, saying he gave Julie Bolender a list of properties that could be considered.
Britton, however, said he didn’t think anybody was left out that gave the land bank a list.
Following the discussion, Britton suggested a dialogue be had about what should be done on the matter, with Duncan saying that the land bank’s legal representative should be present when that discussion takes place. Duncan said that it should be continued at the next meeting.
In other news, Matt Wagner,a certified professional with Tetra Tech, said he learned that Round Two projects for the Brownfield Grant that the land bank submitted were officially approved for funding. He said he didn’t know when Gov. Mike DeWine planned to announce that, but said when he does, everything is in order for the county.
Wagner said the county now needs to put those projects out for bid. He said Tetra Tech would be putting out bid specifications to down buildings, remove storage tanks and remove contaminated soil on behalf of the land bank.
Concerning the S.R. 73 barn, Edison said the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) communicated to her that the barn was accepted to get funding for demolition. The land bank moved for approval to rebid the project. She said she would look into using the Bid Express system the county uses for its projects, while Wagner said he would send it to contractors that specialize in that field.
Regarding updates on the Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Grant program, Edison said there are now four houses down, with two to three planned to start by the end of the week and going into next week.
She said the four properties are: 36 Maple St. in Mowrystown and still needs seeded; 29 Maple St. in Mowrystown and still needs seeded; 81 Main St. in Mowrystown is almost finished; and *123 Hill St. in Hillsboro is completely finished.
Edison said there are a total of 19 properties involved in this grant, with one of those being the S.R. 73 barn.
For other properties, Edison said the property at 12218 New Lexington Ave. in Highland now has an interested buyer. She said they completed the pre-qualification form and are willing to clean up the property. Edison also said the buyer will be going through the Deed-In-Escrow program, which is where the land bank keeps the deed until the property is cleaned. She also said the prospective buyer isn’t an adjoining landowner, but because of the Deed-In-Escrow, they’re able to look into purchasing the property.
Edison said the auditor’s appraised land value was $11,600. The land bank moved to move forward with negotiating the purchase price, which would include the land bank knowing the comparable clean-up cost for properties of that size.
The other property discussed was 6638 Wizard of Oz Way in the Rocky Fork Lake area. Edison said that the property does not have an interested buyer at the moment. She said she looked into advertising it in a county newspaper, but Walker recommended using Zillow. Duncan agreed, saying that if it doesn’t work the land bank could research other options.
Edison said she applied to the Ohio Land Bank Association, as it was looking for two candidates to fill its board.
The next meeting of the land bank is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.