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Sen. Murphy Highlights Importance Of Federal Cleanup Cash During Ansonia Tour

by Eugene Driscoll | Apr 13, 2017 10:45 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia

Photo: Eugene DriscollAt one point during the multiple photo opportunities offered as U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy toured downtown Ansonia looking like the Pied Piper of Valley civic leaders and elected officials, a fat groundhog wobbled out of the woods and crossed East Main Street.

He or she ignored the gaggle of sharp-dressed men and women (and the not so sharply dressed journalists) before disappearing into a crevice of the crumbling old “Process Lab,” a former Farrel Corp. ugly hulk of a building at 501 E. Main St.

“This building is going back to nature right now,” someone quipped.

Ansonia officials are very eager to evict that darn rodent, and right now they say they’re closer than ever to seeing it happen.

Ansonia ReCharged

The city is dubbing it Ansonia “recharged,” a play on Chargers, the high school mascot.

The plans involve a bunch of under-utilized or downright blighted big buildings between East Main Street and Main Street, the heart of the small city.

The old “Process Lab” is owned by Shaw Growth Ventures, a New York state-based firm. They have conceptual plans to convert the building into apartments with ground-level retail.

To make that happen, though, the company needs to sell its building at 65 Main St. (a former Farrel office building) to the City of Ansonia.

The city wants to buy Shaw’s 65 Main St. and turn it into a police station and senior center.

Then there’s the plan to sell the city-owned ATP (Ansonia Technology Park) and Palmer building to Jerry Nocerino and Charles Smith’s Copper City Development. They want to turn the buildings into apartments and a restaurant/micro brewery.

(By the way, the Valley Indy recorded a roundtable discussion on the latest development plans that will air on ValleyIndy.org Monday, April 17.)

Photo: Eugene Driscoll

Money Matters

What’s all this have to do with Sen. Murphy?

Well, Murphy was in town for the second year in a row to tout the “CLEAN UP” Act. It’s an acronym for “Creating Livable Environments And New Usable Property.”

The bill would resuscitate two expired tax credits that could help folks trying to clean up places such as the old Process Lab on East Main Street.

The first tax credit would allow a property owner or developer cleaning up a site to write off the entire cost of an environmental cleanup in the year it takes place.

The second tax credit would allow nonprofit developers to do cleanups more easily.

Murphy said the bill has support on both sides of the aisle and he’s confident it will get adopted.

Murphy was also on Thursday’s walking tour to show the importance of funding “brownfield” projects.

Old manufacturing sites in the Valley are tough to turn around because the private sector doesn’t have the cash to risk on a potentially contaminated site, so the feds often provide money to test and clean.

Federal funding passed through the state and onto the locals through orgs such as the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments are extremely important to getting redevelopment projects off the ground.

Uh Oh

But President Donald Trump isn’t a fan, apparently. His much-publicized “budget blueprint” seeks to reduce brownfield funding.

That’s something no one on Thursday’s walking tour — Mayor David Cassetti, Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley, corporation counsel John Marini, state Rep. Linda Gentile, state Sen. George Logan — supports.

Murphy, a Democrat, assured the locals the partial Trump budget circulated last month is “largely dead on arrival.”

He also observed Trump’s proposed cuts appeared to have been written on the back of a napkin.

“If Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) go through, then we don’t have money to clean up brownfields,” Murphy said.

NOTE: A reader pointed out in the comments the administration wants to cut brownfield funding by 30 percent.

With no brownfield funding, there’s no chance to redevelopment outdated and polluted factory properties into modern manufacturing facilities, let alone the mix of apartments, restaurant and retail being floated on Ansonia’s Main Street.

“Republicans and Democrats don’t support those kind of devastating cuts to clean up dollars. We’re in the process of writing our own budget, and he’ll have some input because he ultimately has to sign it. But his budget was ridiculous,” Murphy said.

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If you don’t blink, you can see the ground hog mentioned at the top of this story way in the background of the video below.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Bill Purcell as the executive director of the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce. He is the president of the organization.

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