A proposal to build a railcar manufacturing facility in Gahanna won't even be leaving the station, now that Gahanna City Council unanimously derailed a resolution Oct. 27 to apply for a grant to fund it.

A proposal to build a railcar manufacturing facility in Gahanna won't even be leaving the station, now that Gahanna City Council unanimously derailed a resolution Oct. 27 to apply for a grant to fund it.

After spending considerable time analyzing paperwork on the matter, city attorney Tom Weber said he couldn't advise moving forward with legislation initiated by US Railcar Co. to develop and build out a modern passenger-railcar manufacturing facility off Claycraft Road.

Weber said he initially understood the city would be a pass-through or conduit with no responsibility except to apply and administer a $1- million grant through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

Under the rules of the grant program, only state and local governments may apply for the funding.

"My analysis led me to different conclusions," he said. "I realize the intent is that we won't be spending the money or doing the project. My reading says we have some level of responsibility by filing the application. I believe the mayor is making assurances by applying."

Weber said that under federal statutes, the city would have to be active in the process.

"We are the grantee, not US Railcar Co.," he said.

Weber also noted that he had to study paperwork for a TIGER II grant, though the city was to have applied for what initially was labeled TIGER III and then substituted on Oct. 27 with "TIGER Discretionary Grant."

"This paperwork, to me, indicates we could be secondarily liable if work wasn't performed or if money wasn't properly extended or the match wasn't provided," Weber said.

In addition to the $12 million from the grant, the project also would have involved a $3-million nonfederal match that would have to be covered by US Railcar or private financing.

Barry Fromm, CEO of US Railcar Co. and Value Recovery Group (VRG), tried to convince council members they were missing an opportunity. He said the grant funds would not be American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds but instead would be money already appropriated in the transportation budget.

Fromm said he has 39 letters of support from various politicians, as well as the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

"All say it's a phenomenal idea," he said. "We'd be doing assembly work. I think it's a logical choice."

Fromm said Gahanna has seven years of experience with him as a partner who helped transform the former Bedford landfill into a 191-acre business campus that includes the Golf Village at Central Park.

"We took your problem and made it a success," Fromm said. "In this case, you're administering a grant."

Council member Tim Pack said the city has been asked to -- within two weeks -- change the vision of Central Park from office, commerce and technology to cluster industry.

"If we go with a manufacturing cluster concept, we're not using optimal resources for the taxpayers," he said. "We have no reason to be risky with taxpayers' dollars. The vision of Central Park is long-term planning. I don't want the vision of Central Park derailed."


For more on this story, read the Nov. 3 edition of ThisWeek Rocky Fork Enterprise.