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Public hearing for brownfields grant Tuesday

January 13, 2019

ROCK FALLS – Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin with a public hearing and wrap up with a vote on the mayor’s nominee to fill a vacant aldermanic seat in the 1st Ward.

The public hearing, set to begin at 6:30 p.m., will be for a $250,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Grant the city has applied for to clean up contamination at the Limestone building at 200 W. First St.

The estimated cost of the cleanup is $300,000, which would be covered with the grant and the 20 percent that the city would be required to contribute. The city unsuccessfully applied for two EPA cleanup grants, each for $200,000, for the 2018 grant cycle.

A series of owners had made plans to save the building, but after preliminary investigations showed signs of asbestos and other environmental hazards, the building was abandoned. In 2009, the city involuntarily gained possession of the site through tax delinquency.

Five years later, the city received a U.S. EPA assessment grant which was used to confirm and identify contamination at the site. The building was demolished in July 2017, and it was determined that remediation would be required.

Hazards include volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and metals in both soil and groundwater. VOCs are gases that are emitted from solids or liquids, while SVOCs are a less volatile subgroup. They include a variety of chemicals that can impact health, and some are known to cause cancer.

The city enrolled in the EPA cleanup program voluntarily. The comprehensive report and action plan was put together in May 2018 and approved by the EPA Aug. 20.

In its grant application, the city calls the Limestone site an “essential catalyst property” for future growth.

“The former Limestone building, the last major riverfront brownfield in Rock Falls, remains the final obstacle to riverfront redevelopment as it continues to negatively impact adjacent commercial and residential properties.”

The city had grown accustomed to being on the EPA’s funding lists after receiving more than $6 million in assessment and cleanup grants for its riverfront redevelopment efforts.

“This was something new for us, but I think we have a very good chance of getting the grant this year. I think that applying for two grants might have hurt us last year,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

The city has worked on the grant applications with Terracon, its environmental consulting firm. 

Council vacancy

Mayor Bill Wescott will recommend that the council approve his appointment of William Wangelin to fill the vacancy created in the city’s 1st Ward by the resignation of George Logan Jr.

Wangelin, a 1970 graduate of Manlius High School, was a technical writer and manager for Norco Fuel Services.

Logan, who was on the council for more than 4 years, tendered his resignation Nov. 26, citing personal reasons. The term for that seat doesn’t expire until 2021.

 

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