No Bill for Dirt Fill: Putnam gives dirt in exchange for flat ac - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

No Bill for Dirt Fill: Putnam gives dirt in exchange for flat acreage

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Trucks are filled with clean fill dirt at the site of an expansion of the Putnam County Business Park. Trucks are filled with clean fill dirt at the site of an expansion of the Putnam County Business Park.
A truck heads down Rt. 35 toward a Nitro remediation site. A truck heads down Rt. 35 toward a Nitro remediation site.

If working together toward a common goal makes for supreme efficiency, then meeting two goals must be ultimate effectiveness.

And that is exactly what is happening on the eastern end of Putnam County.

Potesta and Associates had been hired to handle an environmental remediation at a brownfield site on property used at a plant in Nitro under the names of Monsanto, Flexsys and Solutia.

The Putnam County Development Authority had a need for more level, developable land along the new stretch of Route 35.

One needed dirt — and a lot of it.

Another could use a lot of dirt moved.

It was a perfect marriage.

Gary Walton recognized the opportunity. He currently is president and CEO of Huntington Area Development Council, or HADCO, but was the executive director of the Putnam County Development Authority when the deal was struck about a year ago.

"Yes, I was involved from the beginning," said Walton. "I understood that Solutia was in the market for clean fill material and we at the PCDA had a bunch of material that needed to be removed. I spoke with their environmental engineer, Potesta & Associates, and began negotiations.

"I agreed to give them the fill material for free. They needed about 275,000 cubic yards of dirt. The only thing I asked in return was that they rough in a road to the site as completed that will result in approximately 12 acres of (developable) land."

It is estimated that the fill dirt alone would probably have cost between $825,000 to almost $1 million. Leveling 12 acres of raw land would have come with a steep price tag as well.

Progress a real plus

It is obviously a win-win situation for all involved.

"From our perspective, from a development authority, it's much easier for us when we're showing prospects land if it looks like it's ready to go," said Andrew Dunlap, executive director of the Putnam County Development Authority. "If you're showing someone raw land with trees on it, and you're having to make promises that you're going to have it ready for them, it would take a year. That would make it very difficult. Most times, with the prospect and their timeline, they can't wait that long.

"Part of the agreement is that they'll leave it essentially the same elevation in each of the areas," Dunlap explained. "Because it's so much work, they only work on one area at a time, and they do what's needed by the Department of Environmental Protection requirements, seed it to prevent erosion and go work in another area for a while."

Dunlap said the road they're using for the dump trucks to come out onto Rt. 35 is going to be constructed in a way that will meet Department of Highways standards. 

"When they're done (hauling dirt), we can get it paved, and we're planning a utilities extension (to the area)," he said. 

The amount of work being done is considerable. Dirt has been moved since the spring of 2013, with more expected to be transferred through fall of 2014. An estimated 100 truckloads of dirt, per day, is transported in the effort.

"It's a significant amount of dirt," Dunlap said. 

Location, location

The proximity of the dirt removal site to established industry couldn't be much better.

The location is directly across Rt. 35 from an existing entrance to a Putnam County Business Park. 

"It's very helpful," Dunlap said. "We'll have a four-lane (Rt. 35) bisecting our business park. 

"That improves the connectivity and is very good for the businesses that are there, as well as the prospects that we hope to attract." 

The prospects and opportunities are numerous, he said, but one industry seems to be a natural fit.

"The automotive industry is still very strong for us," Dunlap said. "We have a number of them in the county already. From what we're seeing in trade shows and the talk within the industry, the automotive industry is coming back. A lot of companies are hiring.

"All the signs point to a resurgence in the automotive industry."

Being located between Charleston and Huntington, the state's two largest cities, doesn't hurt Putnam County's chances for progress.

"We're ideally situated because of an available workforce, a great workforce," Dunlap said. "A lot of the population is along the I-64 corridor. It's an advantage. For a company to expand or relocate, they have to have the workforce. It's a numbers game in some ways." 

Actively seeking

The Putnam County Development Authority is pursuing businesses that would, in turn, bring jobs.

"We're doing a number of trade shows," Dunlap said. "We're looking for suppliers, for example — the support organization for manufacturing plants. They can service and supply those bigger facilities."

Since the new Rt. 34 highway opened from a new I-64 interchange to the Jonathan David Higginbotham Memorial Bridge near Buffalo in 2009, there hasn't been a lot of development, despite the connection of some of the busiest highways in the southern part of the state. The business park expansion could help change that.

Possibilities for industry, residential and commercial exist.

"I think all three opportunities exist," said Dunlap. "It will be very interesting what develops. We have nearly 500 employees amongst all of the companies at the business park that exists now. That in itself, I think, will attract some businesses. They need somewhere to eat, it could be a restaurant. There are a number of opportunities there."

Andy Skidmore of the Putnam County Commission also sees the potential in his county, especially along the new highway that leads to the business park.

"We want to develop that land, right on Rt. 35," he said. "It's creating potential sites for businesses. We're always reaching out to potential businesses just to let them know what's going on."