Last updated: August 24. 2013 8:07AM - 81 Views

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VAN WERT — Call it railroad recycling on a mega job-ready scale.Money paid to the state from a nearby railroad salvage operation will return to Van Wert to help pay for a rail spur into the $10.5 million Job Ready Mega Site being built just north of Van Wert.The Ohio Rail Development Commission announced its approval of the cash maneuver Wednesday, saying the project paves the way for thousands of badly needed jobs.“We're very happy to get grant approval,” said Nancy Bowen, economic development director for Van Wert County. “This is just one piece of the financial arrangements we have been working to put in place.”With the Rail Development grant secured, the Mega Site project could go out to bid as soon as this spring. Groundbreaking is projected for summer, with completion and state job-ready certification by December 2012.Bowen said it's still too early to identify potential occupants for the industrial site. “We're focused right now on the certification, not that we haven't been marketing the site already,” she said. The grant of up to $500,000 announced Wednesday is for a 4,200-foot-long rail spur being rebuilt on the 1,600-acre site. The Van Wert Port Authority owns the spur, which currently serves a grain elevator but will become a key component of the Job Ready Mega Site. The Van Wert Port Authority owns the north-south spur, which currently is leased to the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad and connects to CFER's east-west line running through Van Wert.Van Wert business leaders began developing the site a few years ago after Honda of America considered the area for a new manufacturing plant but ultimately built in Indiana.In 1978, the state bought a 30-mile rail line from Lima to Glenmore. The Federal Railroad Administration provided 90 percent of the $3.8 million purchase; the Spencerville & Elgin Railroad paid the remaining 10 percent. Five years later, the state turned over ownership of the Van Wert County portion of the rail line to the Van Wert County Port Authority; the Allen County portion was turned over to the Allen County Port Authority.According to state and federal law, the state is responsible for protecting the 90 percent federal interest in the rail lines, and the agreements with the port authorities reflect the state's authority. When the Van Wert Port Authority decided to salvage its 10.6-mile portion of the line between Elgin and Glenmore, the Ohio Rail Development Commission demanded its 90 percent federal share of the proceeds. Van Wert Port Authority turned over $971,444.Now, about half that amount is coming back to Van Wert for rail development.The rail grant represents “the last dollar in” for the development, according to a copy of the Ohio Rail Development Commission project briefing. Other funds being secured for the project include a $5 million Job Ready Site grant from the Ohio Department of Development; $2.35 million from the federal Economic Development Administration; $200,000 from the local natural gas supplier; and about $1.5 million from local government sources.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.

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