Feds give BDC $1M
Will fund remediation study
— The Bainbridge Development Corporation received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s office of economic adjustment Thursday to help it redevelop the 1,200-acre former naval training center.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” said Toni Lozzi, project coordinator for the BDC. “It’s a godsend.”
It’s the first major commitment from the federal government to Bainbridge since pervasive contamination was detected in soil in parts of the property more than five years ago.
In 2000, the U.S. Navy transferred ownership of the Bainbridge property to the BDC, a state-organized entity tasked with redevelopment of the former Tome School for Boys and U.S. Naval Training Center Bainbridge property that overlooks Port Deposit. Then, it was deemed suitable for transfer without development restrictions.
At that point, the 1,200acre site had undergone several years of environmental investigation, assessment and remediation. But in mid-2008, the BDC
was told of a contamination problem on the property discovered as developers were involved in a voluntary cleanup program before they started development.
An assessment of the entire site, as requested by the Maryland Department of the Environment, was completed by mid-2010, revealing more widespread issues. Since then, redevelopment efforts have been at a standstill as officials tried to hash out remediation with the Navy, which has been slow to invest into the project due to its own tightening budget. At the same time, a devastating arson fire ripped through the property’s historic Memorial Hall two years ago.
The $1 million grant is expected to cover all the steps necessary to determine a more definite cost of remediation, which they are still working with the U.S. Navy to resolve cleanup issues.
“Additional site-wide soil samples are needed to understand the potential risks of contamination and determine a remedial strategy and costs,” Lozzi said Thursday afternoon. “Then the redevelopment plan can be re-evaluated.”
Discussions with the Navy have resulted in a good outcome so far, Lozzi said.
“We expect to have results done by the spring of 2017,” she added, although the term of the $1 million grant lasts through Aug. 30.
The first step in the process is to put together all data from previous, individual soil testing maps into one map so that it will be clear as to which areas still need to be sampled. After soil testing on remaining areas is done, a work plan must be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, then a risk assessment and finally a remedial strategy and cost estimates to do the remediation will take place.
Portions of the Bainbridge property that have no concern of contamination are poised for redevelopment as early as next spring, based on the grant work and a county proposal to build a new regional wastewater plant on the property to serve both Bainbridge and Port Deposit.
“Prospect interest has increased this year,” Lozzi said.
BDC Chairman of the Board Michael Pugh told nearly 50 real estate brokers who were touring the county’s commercial properties Wednesday that Bainbridge is ready for development.
He told county council members last month that Bainbridge lost a bottling company prospect earlier this year that would have invested $145 million and created 135 jobs because the BDC couldn’t give company officials a date when water and sewer would be available.
Since that time, the county has introduced a budget amendment that is up for approval Oct. 18 that will start engineering and design for a wastewater treatment facility on the Bainbridge property within 18 months.
Pugh also recently discussed with Port Deposit officials the findings of a 54-page strategic plan, prepared by Weston Solutions, of West Chester, Pa., that sought to assess the best use or uses for the Tome School property and found that while the property faces significant hurdles, including environmental contamination, historical preservation restraints and a lack of infrastructure, the site is a market-viable project.
“About a year from now, a plan will emerge, which will be close to a final development concept plan for Bainbridge,” he said. “We can find uses (and) help the western end of the county regain its footing.”
Alan McCarthy, the Republican candidate for Cecil County Executive, emphasized a need to address the county’s economic viability and its substance abuse issue.
The former Bainbridge Naval Training Center lies in disrepair on the cliffs above Port Deposit, dormant from activity in the 16 years since the U.S. Navy gave the land to the State of Maryland, but a new federal grant may help spur redevelopment efforts.