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JCIDA seeks $75,000 grant to fund feasibility study for business park at Watertown airport

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Meat soon could be added to a bare-bones plan to establish a business park at the Watertown International Airport, as officials hope to secure $75,000 to fund a feasibility study.

The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency plans to apply for a $75,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to map out preliminary work needed for the park, planned for vacant property east of the taxiway. The board of directors will consider approving the application for the grant Thursday, which will include a $5,000 agency contribution. If the grant is approved, the agency would have to complete the study in one year.

JCIDA, Jefferson County and town of Hounsfield began meeting in February to form a strategic business plan for the corporate park. They each pitched in $10,000 to hire professional consultant David L. Mosher to guide the four-month process.

JCIDA CEO Donald C. Alexander said Monday that the $75,000 feasibility study would provide a clear vision of preliminary work needed at the site, where the agency owns 37 acres of land and has secured a purchase option on an additional 44 acres. A consultant likely would be hired, for instance, to evaluate what land surveys are needed there.

“We’re going to need to drill down and start some serious planning,” Mr. Alexander said. “It may require getting some consulting, or some surveys and (land) samplings. It’s certainly going to require a lot of additional effort before we start turning dirt out there.”

The multimillion-dollar project is going to require multiple years of planning before any deals with businesses are made, Mr. Alexander said. Environmental testing will be needed, and engineering studies to plan for a sewer system and roads.

“Infrastructure is the most important,” he said. “We have to understand what infrastructure is needed, how that would be designed and built, who would pay for it and where it would end up going.”

And although the agency has control over 81 acres, Mr. Alexander said, it’s seeking to purchase two additional parcels that would boost the total acreage over 100 to make room for businesses. “If we can get a little over 100, I then have what I consider an area where we can sink infrastructure in and spread the cost over a large enough area,” he said.

Two companies already have expressed interest in the site, Mr. Alexander said, and JCIDA will reach out to more business owners who might be attracted to it.

County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III said officials plan to push the project forward soon because other local business parks are running out of development-ready space.

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