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Get Grants, Not Loans for Work

Wheeling City Council’s timing in purchasing an old industrial site at 19th and Jacob streets may have been good. That will be so only if municipal officials strike while the iron is hot.

Controversy over the property, including about three acres of land and some dilapidated warehouse buildings, has raged for months. The site is owned by Americo Inc., which in turn is owned by Frank Calabrese.

During their meeting Tuesday, council members put an end to debate on the matter. They voted to purchase the property for $150,000.

It has been proposed that the city remove buildings on the land, then conduct environmental remediation to prepare the site for redevelopment. “To me, it’s in the civic interest to do this, to prepare that part of the city for the next 50 years,” commented Mayor Glenn Elliott.

Exactly how much the project will cost has not been determined, though city officials have said environmental remediation should not be as expensive as some fear. The site is not a “toxic waste dump,” explained Councilman Dave Palmer.

Still, the price tag will be well into seven figures. City officials have said the state Department of Environmental Protection may provide about $300,000 in loans and/or grants for the work.

Wheeling officials should seek grant funding — not loans — for the project. It may be available through both state and federal sources.

City taxpayers already are doing their share in cleaning up the site, by covering the $150,000 purchase price. They should not be saddled with loan repayments, even at low or no interest.

Now may be a good time to seek grants for the initiative, because this is an election year. Both state and federal officials will be more interested than normal in impressing local voters with how eager they are to help.

Time is short. Benefiting from election-year largess will require speed-of-light action in requesting state and/or federal funds. City officials should begin writing applications — and working the phones — immediately.

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