City sticking with Fehr-Graham for Lawrence site assessment

January 22, 2019

STERLING – The city is on track to begin its second phase environmental site assessment this year at the Lawrence Brothers industrial site.

The City Council approved a resolution Monday to stick with Fehr-Graham, the firm it has previously used for the project, and start contract negotiations.

Fehr-Graham helped the city in its unsuccessful efforts to secure a U.S. EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant that date back to 2011.

One council member pointed out that record of futility to Joel Zirkle, who was on hand to represent the firm.

“We’re 0 for 7 or 8 with this grant now,” Alderman Jim Wise said. “Are we talking to Rock Falls? They’ve had a lot of success with Terracon.”

Naperville-based Terracon helped Rock Falls get more than $6 million in EPA grants for its riverfront cleanup efforts.

“This is a highly competitive grant because there is no match – it’s 100 percent federal funds,” Zirkle said.

Dixon was one of only three Illinois recipients of the grant last year. Danville and the city of Chicago were the others.

Sterling will keep trying for the grant, but the difference this year is that it has come up with some of its own money to jump-start the process. The Sterling Industrial Development Commission authorized using funds that were part of the state’s now dissolved Revolving Loan Fund program.

That gives the city $125,000 to begin the assessment work, but the grant is desperately needed to finish the job. The city doesn’t want to have to start over again because too much time has passed since tests were done.

“I think it should help this time around that the city is putting up money for the work,” Zirkle said.

The council was concerned about the project stalling again and wondered how much time they had to finance it.

“Two or 3 years are OK, but once we get to 7, the EPA questions whether the site has changed since we did our testing,” Zirkle said.

The first order of business will be to collect ground samples, which will cost about $100,00. The total price tag on the assessment is in the neighborhood of $350,000, and the city is depending on the grant to cover the rest.

Until the assessment is done, the city won’t know how much will be needed for cleanup.

“We have an 8-year-old estimate of $1.6 million just to demolish the building – that doesn’t include removal, inspection or abatement,” City Manager Scott Shumard said.

The city’s hands are tied, however, until the site testing is completed.

“Until the assessment is done, we can’t even make a decision on whether we want to demolish or reuse the building,” Shumard said.

The city put together an ad hoc committee composed of Shumard, Mayor Skip Lee and Public Works Director Brad Schrader to review the nine firms that were interested in doing the ground work. The committee took the top three firms, checked references and ranked them, with Fehr-Graham emerging as the favorite.

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