By Brandi Makuski
In what’s likely a first step towards a renewed effort to remodel the Bus. 51 corridor, city officials have won a hefty grant from the EPA to fund studying multiple properties and their potential for chemical contamination.
Stevens Point won the maximum Brownfield grant for which it applied, $300,000 over a third-year period, according to a news release from the Environmental Protection Agency. Brownfield is a federal program providing grant and loan funds to communities “to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties”.
The city previously won similar grants to the study and remediate the former mall site, currently home to the new Mid-State and Great Lakes buildings, as well as the former Lullaby site near downtown, which is now vacant and up for sale.
Michael Ostrowski, the city’s community development director, said the contamination the assessors will be investigating takes many forms, including petroleum-based waste or dry-cleaning chemicals from former businesses. He said it was “exciting” to win the grant, but noted it’s just the first step in a lengthy process.
“We can use it to assess properties to determine if there’s contamination and if so, to what extent. It’s the first thing you need to do if you’re going to redevelop, or develop, a property,” he said.
The city has hired Milwaukee-based Stantec to conduct the assessments.
“Basically it involves reviewing the history of the property, collecting the documents pertaining to that property, and if there’s reason to believe there is contamination, or could be contamination, then you proceed with phase two, which includes some initial testing to determine if there’s any soil contamination,” Ostrowski said.
Once sites with contamination are identified, he said, the city can apply for additional grants to remove the contamination.
Mayor Mike Wiza said the grant can be used “anywhere in the city”, but the proposal identified the North Division St. corridor as a priority study.
Sites are identified, he added, based on the city’s long-term development plans.
Ostrowski said the next steps include negotiating the assessment contract with the EPA, and creating a local Brownfield committee to determine specific sites. Some of the identified sites, he said, could include privately-owned property, bringing with it a separate series of procedures.
“But any property owner who is looking to sell someday will likely welcome such a study because it’s often a requirement of the sale,” he added.
The process is expected to begin in October, and will better position the city if it proceeds with remodeling Bus. 51, Ostrowski said.