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City to apply for EPA grant

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Springfield will spend about $16,200 to begin assessing brownfields in the Jordan Creek/center city area. And City Council Feb. 1 held a first reading on a bill that would allocate the money to retain The Forrester Group to prepare an application for the Brownfields Assessment Demon-stration pilot program.

If the city's appli-cation is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the city will receive a $200,000 grant to assess the brownfields situation in center city.

A brownfield is defined as a site where there is real or perceived contamination to a property, usually resulting from an industrial application that has been or is located there, said Mary Lilly Smith, economic development coordinator for the city.

Smith will work with The Forrester Group, a Springfield environmental management consulting firm, to develop the application, if the ordinance passes City Council at its Feb. 16 meeting.

"Basically, this ordinance pertains to our retaining The Forrester Group to prepare the application," Smith said.

The $200,000 the city could receive would be for a two-year period, during which time the city could use the money for research on and assessment of Jordan Creek-area brownfields.

"The money in this grant program would not be used for cleanup; it is strictly marked for assessment," Smith said.

The application is due March 22, and the city will be notified in May if the application is successful. Springfield applied for such a grant in February of 1996 but was not successful, a result of competition from other areas that have greater problems with environmental contamination, Smith said.

"We are much more confident this time because when we applied before, there were no grants even awarded in the EPA's Region VII, the region Springfield is in. Those grants were going to areas that needed to take care of some really bad brownfields. Now those larger cities have received their grants, and cities like ours have a better opportunity," Smith said.

The center city region was identified as the area of assessment because of its historic and ongoing industrial uses, and because of the interest in revitalizing the area.

"There's a great interest in that area of town now, and it is one of the city's priorities to see that area be redeveloped and grow stronger, especially now that we are developing plans for a Civic Park in the area," Smith said.

Benjamin Alexander, senior planner for the city and project director for Civic Park, said the park will act as a hub for center city development, and it will be important for the city to understand the environmental concerns it may face as that project develops.

"This is a good way for us to analyze that area and to potentially know what we're dealing with environmentally along the way. It will also help us with our expansion, as we acquire property along the way, because we will have the possibility of applying for more grant money from the EPA," Alexander said.

The pilot program acts as a kind of gatekeeper for other federal grant programs funded through the EPA, because a great many other grants require that the applicant have received the pilot program grant.

"Once you're awarded this one, it opens the door to a lot of other federal grants. Once we have this grant in place, then we can start looking to some of those other funding sources," Smith said.

Those other funding sources will probably be used to clean up brownfield areas.

Though specific brownfields have not been identified yet in the Jordan Creek area, the application needs to contain some specific information, Smith said, in order to further its chances of succeeding. The city will work with The Forrester Group to identify those specific areas, she added.

Sandra Potter, consultant with The Forrester Group, said the firm will identify a few areas to be included in the application.

"EPA does recommend that you name specific sites in the application, and the more specific your application, the better. We've been working with the city to identify some of those brownfields that could be impediments to development in the center city area," Potter said.

Potter added that the EPA "likes to see things in motion," with an area when it is considering distributing grants.

"The city has been doing so much more work on downtown, and that will be beneficial in its grant application as well," Potter said.

Lance T. Brown, executive director of the Urban Districts Alliance, said the UDA board of directors will look at the brownfields proposal at its Feb. 12 meeting. Though the board has not taken any action, Brown said he thought the grant could only help downtown.

"For myself, personally, anything that can help us improve the area is a plus. I think the city has looked real carefully at this," Brown said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Mary Lilly Smith will coordinate city efforts to secure an EPA grant.[[In-content Ad]]

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