— A historic, sprawling facility in the center of town has been bulldozed by state and local authorities, with hundreds of acres of farmland destroyed and homes destroyed, in an effort to demolish the site of a former medical facility and to make way for a casino.
The demolition of the former medical center, which sits on farmland near Interstate 81 and the Connecticut River, has been a contentious political issue since the site was originally purchased in the late 1980s.
The state of Ohio’s Department of Public Health and Environmental Control announced the decision to tear down the facility Tuesday, saying the medical center was “national property” and that “the Department of Health and Human Services has a legal duty to preserve that property.”
The county has not yet received approval from the state to demolishing the site.
But county officials said in a news release that county officials had received permission from state and county officials to use eminent domain to “destroy and clear the land” to build a casino and to develop the land as a casino site.
The announcement came as Gov.
John Kasich announced a $10 million grant from the Ohio Casino Reinvestment Development Authority to help pay for the demolition of what is considered to be a “national PROPOSAL PROPERITY.”
The county had sought $10.5 million for demolition of “the site of the original medical center.”
The demolition was scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, the release said, but that was postponed due to the weather.
Officials said the demolition could begin as early as this afternoon.
The project, which would be located on approximately 14,500 acres in western Pennsylvania, has drawn scrutiny from both political parties.
The Pennsylvania State Senate passed a resolution calling on the state of Pennsylvania to reject the project in September, but the bill stalled in the state House.
The decision to demolise the facility comes just weeks after the state approved $5.3 billion in casino tax revenue, but lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement on a state and federal casino tax.
That deal was finalized in October, but some lawmakers questioned the appropriateness of the tax.
“I am disappointed in the governor and the legislature, who are determined to destroy the legacy of the Medical Center of the University of Pennsylvania and to bring this project to fruition,” said Republican state Rep. Mark Grosch, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.
“I would have hoped they would have made some progress.”
A report released by the Ohio Department of Transportation found that in the first quarter of 2018, the state spent $8.6 million to demolishes, clear, or relocate approximately 975 properties, an average of more than 3,500 a day.
The average cost to demolize a property was $5,933.
In the same quarter, Ohio spent $1.9 million to remove and relocate 3,300 properties.
A spokesperson for the Ohio Insurance Department, which is responsible for the state’s casino tax, said it would be “appropriate” to conduct a second assessment of the site and that it would “take into account the financial impact” of the demolition.
The news release from the Department of public health and environmental control did not specifically say what type of property would be affected.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.