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State, local officials tour progress at former Jeannette Glass

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, 4:09 p.m.
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left) listens to Jeannette Mayor Richard Jacobelli during a tour of the former Jeannette Glass site on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. County officials are undertaking a $6 million redevelopment project at the 13-acre parcel.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left) listens to Jeannette Mayor Richard Jacobelli during a tour of the former Jeannette Glass site on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. County officials are undertaking a $6 million redevelopment project at the 13-acre parcel.
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left), Westmoreland County Commission Ted Kopas and Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. Director Jason Rigone listen to a discussion during a tour of the former Jeannette Glass site on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. County officials are undertaking a $6 million redevelopment project at the 13-acre parcel.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell (left), Westmoreland County Commission Ted Kopas and Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. Director Jason Rigone listen to a discussion during a tour of the former Jeannette Glass site on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. County officials are undertaking a $6 million redevelopment project at the 13-acre parcel.
Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. Director Jason Rigone (right) gestures while discussing a $6 million redevelopment project at the former Jeannette Glass site with Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas (left) and State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell during a tour on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.
Renatta Signorini | Tribune-Review
Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. Director Jason Rigone (right) gestures while discussing a $6 million redevelopment project at the former Jeannette Glass site with Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas (left) and State Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell during a tour on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Demolition work is progressing quickly at the former Jeannette Glass site compared to other similar brownfield properties, according to Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

It's been a priority for legislators in Harrisburg "to try to get something over the finish line for the community here," McDonnell said Friday during his first tour of the plant's remnants.

There's been more progress in the last two months than in 30 years, said Kevin Halloran, manager of the DEP's environmental cleanup and brownfield programs in the southwest regional office. Halloran checks in and visits regularly.

"A year from now, it will look amazingly different," he said.

McDonnell joined about 20 state, county and local officials at the defunct glass plant for a walking tour of the mangled, rusted buildings and grounds littered with glass remnants. The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp. is undertaking a $6 million redevelopment project at the 13-acre property whose previous owner let it sit dormant for decades.

The project is being funded in part by local and state dollars.

McDonnell called that money well-spent.

"You have people here — a couple generations — who can't even imagine something else can be here," he said.

The IDC bought the parcel for $305,000 at a 2012 tax sale. Years of court challenges over the validity of the sale filed by New York businessman Abraham Zion stymied development plans. Zion purchased the factory for $4 million 1983. He died in 2016.

After the state Supreme Court upheld the sale, the parties reached a settlement last year that allowed the county to take over in September 2016. Demolition and remediation work is set to be finished in November, and a consultant is testing the soil to determine the next steps.

"We're going to recycle as much as we possibly can," IDC director Jason Rigone told McDonnell during the tour, adding that workers eventually will have to use clean dirt to create part of a pad for future development, which will improve marketing potential. "The county's committed to making that investment."

Halloran told McDonnell that the results of ground testing are pending, but there likely will need to be some type of a cap constructed, which could mean a parking lot or some other type of barrier above the soil.

Future phases include removing building foundations and footers, excavation, compacting soil, planting grass, extending utilities and building a road. A stream underneath the property behind neighboring homes will be opened.

Mayor Richard Jacobelli said the progress thus far is an improvement for the neighbors along Bullitt Avenue.

"In my estimation, it is going to increase the values of the property exponentially, for sure," he said.

The department's involvement with the site goes back to about 2010 when the city first sought help with Zion, said solicitor Scott Avolio.

"That created a great partnership," he said.

At a May ground breaking ceremony , a $960,300 grant through the DEP's Industrial Site Reuse Program was awarded to the project.

"They do have a vested interest in what's going on in this area," Jacobelli said. "They're really cooperating with the city in the last two years."

Officials expect that once the site is occupied, it will generate an estimated $150,000 to $250,000 in annual property taxes and create as many as 160 jobs. The project is expected to be completed by winter 2018.

"I'm excited to come back in a year," McDonnell said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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