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Carbon seeking $1 million for Packerton Yards

Published October 16. 2009 05:00PM

Carbon County is asking for $1 million from the United States Economic Development Administration for use at the Packerton Business Park.

On Thursday, during the county commissioners' meeting, the board unanimously voted to ratify a grant application requesting the funds from the EDA.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said the action is another effort to get funding for the business park and bring jobs into the county.

In August, the county met with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) to ask for his support of their grant application.

During that meeting, Dawn Ferrante, director of the Carbon County Office of Economic Development, gave a brief presentation on the project.

She covered the progress the county has made to ensure the success of the project, including securing funding, resolving issues, and completing environmental testing and remediation of the 59-acre former Packerton rail yards, which straddles Mahoning Township and Lehighton.

Currently, Carbon County has secured more than $3 million for the industrialization project and hopes to acquire funding through the federal government.

Specter congratulated the county on the progress that has been made at the site and said he believes they are in good shape.

The industrialization of Packerton Yards has been in the works since 2002, when Commissioner Charles Getz and O'Gurek included the project as part of their campaign.

On Feb. 25, 2005, the county purchased the site from Joseph and Betty Zaprazny at a cost of $350,000.

Since then, the board has worked with state officials, such as state Speaker of the House Keith McCall (D-Carbon), to secure millions of dollars in funding to use for developing the site.

Much controversy circulated around the site in 2006, following the awarding of a contract to Flynn Demolition of Pottsville, to demolish the sole building that stood on the property.

Lancaster County business owners April Koppenhaver and Bruce Clark, as well as Nesquehoning native Thomas Zimmerman IV, filed multiple injunction requests against the county in hopes of stopping the demolition and the industrialization. Their attempts failed.

The building was torn down and the commissioners were given the green light to move forward with the industrialization of the site.

On Sept. 16, 2008, the proposed business park received preliminary plan approval from the Carbon County Planning Commission.

In February, the county received $631,958 from Mount Airy Resort and Casino's gaming fund revenues to go toward making improvements to Rt. 209 and to build an access road to the Norfolk Southern and Reading and Northern rail lines, which travel through Packerton Yards and across an entrance.

In April, the county entered into an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company for preliminary engineering services for railroad crossing improvements on the Packerton Yards entrance crossing, located in the Packerton Dip along Rt. 209.

In June, the county's request to extend the KOZ status at Packerton Yards was rejected by Lehighton and Mahoning Township. The current KOZ status is scheduled to expire in 2010.

Earlier this week, O'Gurek met with Mahoning Township supervisors to answer any questions they may have on the project.

Currently, the industrialization of the property is expected to be completed by 2015.

In a related matter, the board voted to ratify a resolution committing the sum of $2 million in the county's 2010 budget for the Packerton Business Park.

O'Gurek explained this money will be returned in the form of grants that the county has already been approved for. This action was a requirement for the grants.

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