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Ranson officials mull redevelopment of former Kidde plant

July 17, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. -- Faced with the prospect of the site remaining idle, Ranson city officials Tuesday night discussed acquiring the former Kidde Fire Fighting Inc. plant and redeveloping it.

Kidde Fire Fighting, which made fire-extinguishing equipment and products like sprinkler systems, announced in 2006 it was closing the local plant along Mildred Street in Ranson.

The plant closing resulted in the loss of 126 jobs and ended decades of production.

City Manager David Mills and City Attorney Andy Blake told Ranson City Council members Tuesday night about an idea they had for redeveloping the site and making it productive again.

Kidde Fire Fighting Inc. was purchased by United Technologies Corp. and the parent company is not interested in selling or redeveloping the plant, according to Mills and Blake.

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Mills expressed concern about the plant sitting idle for a long time.

United Technologies is based in Hartford, Conn., and Mills said sometimes, "the further away from the flagpole" an idled plant is from its owner's headquarters, the more it is ignored.

As a way for United Technologies to deal with the property, Blake proposed that the company deed the plant to the city for $1.

Then the city could take over redevelopment of the site, Blake said. Redevelopment could be done in several ways, including a public/private partnership, Blake said.

"This is clearly something the city should be doing as far as economic development," Mills told council members.

City Recorder Tony Braithwaite said he liked the idea but said all environmental assessments of the site should be completed before the city enters into any agreement.

Environmental cleanup needs to be conducted at the site, Blake said.

Council members agreed to pursue the idea, which Blake emphasized is in the early stages.

The plant's operations included a foundry where workers poured molten brass and aluminum into molds to make parts.

The chances of finding another company to purchase the site and put the foundry into operation "would be pretty slim," Mills said.

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