A $10.8 million proposal to build one of the "greenest" buildings in York County has suffered a setback, but organizers are hoping a new round of state grants could save the project.
The York County Conservation District is planning to construct the 32,000-square-foot agriculture-related office building in Springettsbury Township, near its current offices in the county's Pleasant Acres Annex off Concord Road.
But the plans were hinging on the receipt of a $5 million state grant, which was recently rejected.
The state announced 54 projects totaling nearly $125 million were awarded money under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which is administered by the Office of the Budget and covers the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and historical improvement projects.
The York building was not among them.
Conservation District Director Mark Kimmel said members of the committee working on the proposal must now "wrap our heads around what to do next."
"We're trying to maintain some optimism," he said. "We've done as much as we can in trying to be prepared without spending big dollars on designing that we don't have."
Trying again: County commissioners last year agreed to give land for the project and authorize the spending of $125,000 for design work, with the understanding that the money would be repaid and financed into the mortgage, Kimmel said.
"The only risk they took was that the entire project could go away (because it couldn't find funding)," Kimmel said.
Organizers have used $53,000 of the county's allocation, money he's hoping "won't fall to naught." They plan to refresh the application for the next round of funding, he said.
President County Commissioner Steve Chronister said Wednesday he's not concerned.
"We didn't mean it had to be paid back this year," he said. "I'm confident they'll get the grant, just not this year. It's a matter of when, not if."
Jay Pagni, spokesman for the Office of the Budget, said the next round of funding will be announced within the next several weeks or couple of months.
He said officials encourage project organizers who lost out this time to reapply and enhance their proposals if they can.
Projects are judged based on several criteria, including the number of jobs created or retained and the economic impact to the community.
The projects that won the grants are expected to retain or create more than 56,000 jobs across the state, combined, he said.
Hiring unclear: It's unclear how many people would be hired to build the York facility, but Kimmel said it would house about 60 existing employees from departments such as the Conservation District, the USDA, the Farm Service Agency, and the Penn State Cooperative Extension.
The conservation district operates out of the annex now, but the aging building is in need of repair. A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agents stationed there said they chose not to renew their lease with the county because of the building's condition.
The new building would bring most of the county's agriculture-related entities under one roof.
Plans call for the two-story building to be positioned for the best use of daylight, and it would look similar to a barn. It would have composting toilets and other eco-friendly features.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.