Council gets update on Porter site remediation

The Huntington Common Council received an update on the remediation process at the H.K. Porter site during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Bryn Keplinger, director of the city’s Community Development and Redevelopment Department, reported to council that three buildings at the site were set to be demolished. Three aerial dust collectors, plus a 20,000-gallon above-ground storage tank, were set to be removed as well, he said. Demolition bids for the structures had been opened at the Board of Public Works and Safety meeting on Monday, Oct. 7. The plan, said Keplinger, is for all of the aforementioned structures to be removed by the end of the year.

Personnel from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be returning to the site this month, added Keplinger. Those workers will be collecting yard samples at up to 22 residential properties in the vicinity of the site, he said. If contamination is detected at any of those properties, the affected soil and grass will be removed and replaced.

More sampling may be conducted next year, said Keplinger, following a review of this round of testing.

The EPA representatives will be removing an underground storage tank as well, stated Keplinger.

The last major tasks at the site, noted Keplinger, would revolve around the main manufacturing building. That structure, which is 95,000 square feet, must be decontaminated of asbestos dust, he said. After that process, demolition would be able to occur.

Keplinger expressed confidence that the EPA would be willing to help the city address the tasks at the building.

“The city continuing to make progress on this shows the feds that, hey, we’re serious about this; we’ve got skin in the game, so to speak,” said Keplinger. “It makes them more likely to come back and assist us when we go back to them and say, ‘Hey, we’ve taken care of everything. We’ve got one big enchilada left. Let’s partner up and let’s do this.’”

In addition, Keplinger reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had upgraded the city’s rating in the National Flood Insurance Program Community Rating System from a Class 8 to a Class 7.

The city’s rating will officially improve on May 1, 2020, said Keplinger. Communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program can improve their rating by engaging in floodplain management activities that exceed the program’s minimum requirements.

Huntington is one of only 11 communities statewide to earn a Class 7 rating, noted Keplinger.

The higher a community’s rating, said Keplinger, the more residents’ flood insurance premium rates are discounted.

“City residents who have flood insurance policies will now save additional money each year when they renew,” he explained, “and that total savings is estimated to be about $120.”

In other business, council directed the city’s Historic Review Board to draft preservation guidelines for one of seven public properties on a list generated by Huntington Alert Inc. The properties in question have all been deemed worthy by Huntington Alert of receiving local historic designations.

A local historic designation protects a property that is considered to have historical value and prescribes preservation guidelines for it. While the power to confer such designations rests with council, the Historic Review Board is in charge of drafting preservation guidelines.

The board will create guidelines for just one of the properties to show council what such guidelines look like. If those guidelines, which only pertain to a property’s exterior, meet council’s approval, the board will then generate guidelines for the remainder of the properties.
On another Historic Review Board matter, council appointed Karena Hernandez to the board.

Mayor Brooks Fetters announced at the meeting that Andrew Rensberger, the city’s community engagement/volunteer coordinator, would be resigning on Oct. 12.

Fetters praised Rensberger’s contributions to the city, noting that he had overseen a total of 19,658 volunteers since his hiring in 2016.

Altogether, those volunteers had donated 68,285 hours, said Fetters.