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Gering seeks nod on Brownfield grant process
October 23, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Gering’s Public Works Committee received an update on its Brownfield grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to help with the cost of assessing abandoned properties for cleanup prior to demolition.
Rawnda Pierce, executive director of Twin Cities Development, is assisting with grant administration. “We’re going to look at five to six old businesses we think would be more expensive to evaluate,” she said. “We have to get access agreements from the owners, which should take about four weeks to complete.”

She added that much of the bidding for the work will have to be done outside the area, as a specialized company will be needed to examine the buildings for asbestos problems, contaminated soil and other hazards.

“You might not see much progress, as this is just assessment work,” Pierce told committee members. “The city will have to pay for those services but will be reimbursed by the grant.”

The grant paperwork, due back in December, allows for up to $200,000 per property for assessment costs. A city or qualifying entity can apply for a maximum of three grants a year.

Committee Chairman Larry Gibbs said two obvious properties that should be evaluated soon are both owned by the city. They include the former Lane Auction House at 11th and P Streets, and the old WESTCO grain elevator on 10th Street just north of the railroad tracks.

Gering City Administrator said the WESTCO structure should be the city’s top priority because parts of the building are falling off. Also, the interior roof of the Lane property is collapsing.
Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said an EPA representative visited the area and was very cooperative on working with the city, given that some of the preliminary evaluation work has already been completed.

Pierce also told the committee the city’s $350,000 downtown redevelopment grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development has been approved, but the contract still need to be written.

During a revision of the original proposal, the downtown redevelopment committee developed a proposal to convert the city parking lot at 11th and O Streets into a public space for farmers’ markets, art shows, and even a skating rink in the winter.
The Public Works Committee also discussed potential ideas for getting the public more involved in recycling to help extend the life of the current landfill. And they learned city staff will make a recommendation to the council next week on hiring a new city engineer.
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