St. Lawrence County receives grant to launch second phase of J & L Steel Corp. demolition project

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STAR LAKE — A $500,000 grant has been awarded to St. Lawrence County to help launch the second phase of the building demolition project at the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. site off Route 3.

The grant was awarded by the Northern Border Regional Commission, an agency created by Congress in 2008 that’s modeled after the Appalachian Regional Commission model.

Heidi J. Ames, grants manger for the county Planning Office, said the funds will revitalize the rail corridor that bisects the J&L site.

“Access to the rail on site is inhibited by dilapidated structures that pose immediate safety concerns and thwart private investment on the site,” Ms. Ames said.

Cleaning up the rail access will also advance a regional effort to rehabilitate the 46-mile Newton Falls Secondary Rail Line from Carthage to Newton Falls.

Ms. Ames said the commission’s goal is to help regional community economic development projects to spur economic growth.

The first phase at the J&L site is expected to be finished this fall and involves removing asbestos and demolishing 11 buildings at a cost of $588,000.

“It’s our hope and intent to complete abatement and demolition of the remaining 17 buildings in one additional phase which is anticipated to cost approximately $1.7 million,” Ms. Ames said.

Mark C. Hall, a St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency member from the town of Fine, said he expects the first phase will finish by Sept. 1. All of the buildings may be down next summer as officials get closer to having enough revenue.

“I’m really anticipating by next summer we will be able to complete all of the demolition,” he said.

The work is being handled by Dan’s Hauling & Demolition, Albany.

“All of the rain we’ve had has been helpful at keeping the dust down,” Mr. Hall said.

The 58-acre site closed in 1977. A decade later, an underground fuel oil leak was discovered. Since then, ongoing remediation has been handled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In January, the town of Clifton was awarded a $500,000 Restore NY grant from Empire State Development.

Ms. Ames said the cleanup project also has applied for $75,000 through the DEC and expects to hear soon whether funding will be awarded.

There is also a $342,500 application pending to Empire State Development through the Consolidated Funding Application process.

“We plan to apply for approximately $300,000 from National Grid’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program in the near future. Of course, we don’t expect success on every application and are considering alternative funding sources as well,” she said.

Demolishing abandoned buildings at the former J&L site and getting it ready for redevelopment has been a collaborative project.

Besides the county, partners include the county’s Industrial Development Agency, the towns of Clifton and Fine, the Development Authority of the North Country and the Clifton-Fine Economic Development Corp.

She said they are working with other agencies to find opportunities to redevelop the site.

Those include the Adirondack Park Agency, the DEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Every entity involved plays a pivotal role and has applied staff capacity and other resources to advance the effort,” Ms. Ames said.

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