BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon has pledged to partner with the Upshur County Development Authority to lay the groundwork for a new industrial access road to what the development authority hopes will be a $5 million medical marijuana processing facility in the Brushy Fork Road area.
City Public Works Director Jerry Arnold said Tuesday that barring inclement weather, during the first full week of January 2021, city crews plan to grate out and gravel a 500-foot-long road off Brushy Fork Road to UCDA property. The road would give the owners of a new medical marijuana growing and processing business access to the UCDA property on which they’re constructing their facility.
At Buckhannon City Council’s Dec. 3 meeting, city officials and UCDA Executive Director Rob Hinton reached an agreement wherein the city would provide $30,000 in labor and materials to lay a temporary industrial access road.
The facility slated to be built on UCDA property is owned by Buckhannon Grow, LLC and Buckhannon WV Processing, LLC, which are based in Columbus, Ohio.
At a previous meeting in November, Hinton and council members were unable to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement when Hinton asked the city to be the applicant for a state grant that would fund an industrial access road. Council members and Arnold told Hinton they were worried about money, should the grant funding not come through, and time constraints, given other prioritized projects.
At the Dec. 3 meeting, however, Hinton proposed a new solution.
“We started looking at simplifying this process moving forward and partnering up on the road, and we started identifying ‘what is the direct need here of urgency?’ and that direct need is getting at least some sort temporary access road grated in and graveled when this company is getting ready to break ground on their manufacturing facility,” Hinton said, “and while we’re doing that, at the same time, we’ve been working with Charleston, communicating with them about the plans for the road.”
Hinton said the UCDA will be the grant applicant, and the application was currently undergoing preliminary review.
“What we had decided is, if we could get a rough road grated and graveled, then we really don’t need to commit to a larger project at this time,” Hinton said. “We could still work and flesh out the details and also wait for confirmation from the state. That way we would know we had the grant.”
The UCDA plans to ask for the full allowable amount – $400,000 – from the State of West Virginia to pay for the industrial access road.
“We’re confident we’ll be able to secure those funds, but obviously nothing’s guaranteed,” Hinton told council. “That way we don’t have to make a decision on a large project, however the cost may shake out, until we know we have grant funds to cover the cost, and I think that is probably a better situation for everyone to commit to.”
Hinton said city engineer Jay Hollen had estimated it would cost the city about $30,000 to “do a rough grade on a road,” and that wasn’t money the city would be reimbursed.
“That would be an expense the city would absorb,” Hinton said, “and it would not be able to recoup or recapture that cost. I just want to make that clear so we’re not having different expectations going into this.”
Hinton said the UCDA would be the grant applicant, and if awarded the funding, would be required to bid it out, at which time the City of Buckhannon could bid on the road project.
“[During previous discussions] one of the big constraints was whether or not the city would have the available resources and time to do a full-fledged highway-grade road project, and if that’s the case, the city could bid on the grant,” Hinton said. “[Once we know if we are successful] in the receipt of those funds, the city can look at whether or not you have time in your schedule and can fit it in with your other projects.”
City recorder Randy Sanders said the city’s schedule of streets and sidewalks projects – just as much as money – had been at the forefront of council members’ worries at the previous meeting.
“I think that was one of the big concerns we had as well as the financial restraints on the city was the time element with other projects we have going,” Sanders said. “I think this is a great solution to a situation, and I think it shows the entities working together very well, and that’s how you obtain success when everybody comes together on a project like this.”
Sanders also congratulated Hinton on attracting the company, which has projected it will create 80-100 jobs.
Councilman CJ Rylands said he was in favor of paying for a temporary access road, which would demonstrate the city’s overall support for the project.
“The building permit fees on a $5 million building, the B&O tax, and then the increased multiplier on personal and real properties is going to pay dividends to the city over time, so I support this measure,” Rylands said.
Sanders made a motion to commit $30,000 to grade out and gravel and access road off Brushy Fork Road connecting Brushy Fork to the development authority’s property, which lies in Buckhannon’s corporate limits.
Rylands seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.