EATON — Lewisburg and Eaton business owner Herschel Braughton is the new owner of the former Hines Truck Stop located on the southeast corner of U.S. 40 and U.S. 127. The site has sat vacant for years. Now, with help from Preble County Development Partnership and other entities, officials are working to make a difference with the property.
Hoping to renovate the property, Brenda Latanza, Economic Development Director for the PCDP, reached out to Braughton. Together with Title and Property Researcher Shannon Davis, Barry Franz with Diversified Environmental Consulting LLC, Preble County Director of Land Use Brad Kramer, and Ohio Developmental Services Agency Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Program Coordinator April Stevens, Latanza and Braughton presented the project to the Preble County Board of Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 17.
According to Latanza, it has been one of the goals of the PC Development Partnership to clean up the corner which includes the former Hines Truck Stop. She introduced Braughton to Franz, and the group formed from there.
Davis began the presentation by sharing history of the property with the board. She then moved into the current state of the truck stop.
“Over the years, what has happened, roughly around 1985, it looks like the property owners at the time were in foreclosure. They were getting in trouble with EPA violations,” Davis said. “There is no responsible party at this point, moving forward until [Braughton] purchased the property.”
Franz then took over the presentation. He shared, in 1990 the site ceased operation. In 2001, nine underground tanks were removed. According to Franz, the report shows those tanks had holes in them. It was clear, in the report, there were problems, Franz said.
In 2006 the site had its first official site investigation. That investigation looked at just the area around the tanks. Reports came back with contamination levels above current state standards.
In 2007, the owners were informed a formal investigation called a “Tier One” was required. That investigation expanded outward and showed soil and groundwater impacts.
After legal maneuvering from 2007 until 2012, the groundwater samples were taken again and showed false impact.
“Again, this is a very small area around the truck stop itself,” Franz said. “Nothing has been done since then. It has just sat there. Once Herschel purchased the property, we began the BUSTR Class C Determination request form.”
BUSTR is the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations.
Class C is a very specific category of underground storage tanks, according to Franz.
“In order to get the Abandoned Gas Station grant funds, the tanks have to be classified as a Class C. That class states there is no financial responsible party,” Franz said. “Between 2007 and 2012, that effort was actually started within BUSTR, but it was never completed. We do have letters that state BUSTR did find the prior property owners as the responsible party, but again, it was never fully completed.”
In late August officials submitted a 400-plus page document to BUSTR, which includes much of the data requested. An attorney with BUSTR is currently reviewing that information. Franz found additional items that he notified BUSTR of since submitting the previously mentioned documents.
The Class C designation is the first step. Franz expects BUSTR to identify the site as a Class C. Next, the group will be working with Stevens on an application for the Abandoned Gas Station grant. There are two steps in the process. The first is the assessment. Once that work is completed, the group can identify what needs to be done to the site to clean it to Ohio EPA and BUSTR standards.
The group will then be issued a Certificate of Cleanliness, or “Clean Letter”. Braughton’s property should increase in value, due to the lack of environmental issues, officials said.
Stevens added, the application has to be submitted through a local governmental entity, and this is where the Preble County Commissioners come into the picture.
The group would like it to be Preble County who applies for these funds. The funds would be issued to the county and would go directly to pay for the project, according to Stevens.
As for the Redevelopment Phase, Stevens explained, the group wants to see something beneficial for Preble County built there — but not another gas station.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH