Simulator fate is outlined by ODNR

CADIZ — Representatives of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources met recently with members of the local media to discuss the recent dismantling of the mine simulator at the Mine Safety Training Center in Cadiz and clarify the status of the remaining classrooms and offices,

“The simulator is being dismantled because it was unsafe and not up to code as determined by the Ohio State Fire Marshal and the Ohio Department of Commerce,” stated Mark Bruce, Public Information Officer for the ODNR. “ODNR is working to secure the funding to build a new simulator and once secured, the state will construct a new, safe, simulator in Eastern Ohio.”

“Since late 2012 we have talked about how we could be more efficient and support the program and one of the things we talked about is that we lease this building and it would be more efficient if we just bought it,” stated ODNR spokesman Matt Eiselstein. “When the initial articles came out expressing a desire for the training center to remain in Cadiz, we worked very hard to try and buy the building negotiating with the CIC.”

The ODNR hired an architectural firm and presented the full report on the structure at the meeting.

“It was then we found out that the mine simulator was the big problem, it did not meet code and pretty much could not meet code.” Eiselstein explained that the plywood structure was built around free floating metal racks.

“We spent a few months looking at it,” adding that they explored fire retardant paints and other options, “because we really wanted to be here in this building.”

Citing an ODNR policy which prohibits spending capital dollars in a leased building they explained that the original $600,000 for construction came from the Black Lung Fund which allowed them to be used in the Training Center.

Stating that the CIC had contacted the state last summer looking for a commitment with an offering price of roughly $2 million. The engineering study estimated that repairs to bring the simulator and building up to code would cost $3 million, “We did not have $5 million on hand.”

Currently, the village of Cadiz owns the building, however it is committed to a 15 year lease with Tappan Holdings.

“We had engaged in a series of talks with both the ODNR and Tappan Holdings over the past 18 months and felt that we had come to an agreement which would allow the state to purchase the building,” said Mike Sliva President of the Cadiz Community Improvement Corp. adding he had brokered verbal commitments from both parties.

“When ODNR announced that it would be necessary to tear out the simulator, we did not necessarily feel that in itself would prohibit the deal from going through,” Sliva said at first he was confused by the state’s position.

According to the ODNR they were facing the end of the lease in Cadiz, that is when the idea of moving to Cambridge was initially discussed as an option. “The company which ODNR was leasing from in the Cambridge area, had another building on the site where the state could buy or build.”

“The building needs some work but is structurally sound,” Sliva explained. “Considering that if the state relocates they would have to find another suitable building to lease or build on land they would have to purchase, I would challenge them to find a more suitable location for $1.7 million.”

“Essentially it will cost the same to construct a new simulator in any building,” Sliva added that discussing the cost f a new simulator was irrelevant to the negotiations. “We are still willing to partner with ODNR on this location and believe this structure would be very cost efficient for the state.”

“We came up with a figure and then negotiated a price decrease on the initial deal.” Sliva said that the village had the building evaluated and feels that their proposed sale price, which included the property located to the rear of the structure which had been used for the mine safety competition, was competitive. “It was a significant savings, according to our figures we came in at $150,000 under fair market value.”

“In February we were able to negotiate the lease for the two training rooms and the office space, but unfortunately at that time Tappan Holdings decided that they did not want to continue leasing us the 4 acres behind the building,” Eiselstein explained that hundreds of mine bolts are placed in the field during mine competitions to replicate a rescue scenario.

“Fortunately it seems that Mr. Higgins has changed his mind,” ODNR is currently in negotiations to lease the space necessary to hold the Ohio Mine Safety Competition this summer at the Cadiz facility. “We are appreciative and we are working quickly to so we can get this back under lease and hold an event here this summer.”

“To clarify, the Ohio Mine Safety Competition will not be held in Moundsville,” Bruce emphasized. “The Post 6 Regional competition will be moved from the Cadiz location to Moundsville this year, not the Ohio Competition.”

“We continue to provide the all the facilities needed to complete the training to be a coal miner,” Eiselstein stated there are certain required courses to get your Red Hat before becoming a miner. “Those happen in these training rooms.”

“According to state code there are no requirements for ODNR to build a mine simulator,” Sliva explained the current facility fulfills all mandated state requirements to train miners. “We are hopeful that once they find a source for revenue that we can resume negotiations and keep the facility here in Cadiz.”

“Having the simulator of the pillar mine is an important and valuable experience and we want to rebuild a site that meets code that provides a good learning experience,” stated Mark Bruce. “Our goal is to create a quality training experience for Ohio’s miners.”

“We are working very hard to get the money to rebuild a proper center,” he added. “Our concern is where is the best site that can be obtained that is of service to the miners?

The ODNR officials, along with Craig Corder, Mine Safety Program administrator, visited the new Alpha Natural Resources world-class center for mine safety and training and development in West Virginia. The projected cost for the five-building complex is $23 million. The facility is to include a mine lab of approximately 96,000 feet where simulated mine situations and conditions can be presented to certified supervisors and examiners to solve and correct, facilities and equipment for electrical and maintenance skills training, and facilities and equipment for supervisory leadership skills training.

“We are not optimistic that we can procure funding for anything quite as elaborate, but we want to assure everyone that ODNR is committed to miners and committed to making sure they are safe and giving them the best facility to train in,” Mark Bruce concluded. “We are going to work with miners and the industry as we build and design the new facility.”

Palmer may be reached at mpalmer@timesleaderonline.com