The Bellefonte Industrial Development Authority committed more money to the waterfront project at its meeting Wednesday to get the site ready for approval from the state.
The land must be cleared through investigations by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The DEP investigation would clear the land from a geological standpoint, because part of it was previously used as a coal yard, and the PHMC investigation would be to mitigate the impacts from a historical angle.
Work for both agencies to clear the property would cost about $118,000, but the borough is expecting at least 75 percent to be covered through state grant funding.
The borough is looking to get a flood wall proposal approved to sell the land to a developer who would create a multibuilding complex with a hotel, commercial space and office space.
IDA member Gregory Wendt made the motion to approve the proposal for the local funding match for the grant because he doesn’t want to slow down engineers Scott Russell and Buchart Horn.
“I don’t want to hold (Russell) up because this stuff has to be done no matter what,” he said.
The motion passed 4-1, with IDA member Matt Hill casting the dissenting vote. Hill said he didn’t feel comfortable approving it before they saw the agreement and because they don’t know exactly how much the local match would be if the grant funding is provided.
Borough Manager Ralph Stewart said that representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources have told him that the money is available, and he expects the grant will be approved.
The IDA also got an update about the status of the flood wall design.
Russell said his team is looking into material and structure of the wall, saying that it will likely take a stone appearance. He added that it would not be prudent to put light fixtures below the wall because they could be damaged in flooding.
Lights could be integrated at the top of the wall to illuminate the walking path that runs next to it, he said.
A cost estimate for the wall could be determined by the March meeting and should definitely be ready for April, Russell added.
Borough officials have decided to continue with the project despite the lack of an agreement with a developer because they want to move the project along as quickly as possible.
Stewart said that a main holdup with the developer negotiations is that they don’t know how much the flood wall will cost. When they are able to get a cost estimate, they will be able to ramp up talks with the two potential developers and possibly get more interest from other parties.
“We want to pinpoint how much that big ticket item’s going to cost, and we want to get our money back for that,” he said.