Grant helps with downtown revitalization

EPA subcontractors Greg Geras (left) and Gary Snow check for hazardous materials at 12 N. Seventh St. Monday morning.

 

For decades it was known as Dr. Arlo Nansel’s dentist office but after retiring last year the office is empty, and the process to renovate 12 N. Seventh St. has begun, with the help of Brownfields federal funding.

Building owners Mike Etchemendy and John Filler were awarded a Brownfields Assessment Grant for an assessment study to determine if there are any hazardous materials in the office and, if so, the cost for cleaning it up.

Miles City Preservation Officer Connie Muggli said buildings constructed before 1970 often have hazardous materials, such as asbestos. 

Monday morning Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) subcontractors, Gary Snow from Pierre, S.D. and Greg Geras from Denver, were on hand to determine if the office held any asbestos, lead-based paint, mercury in the light bulbs, mold, radon, pentachlorophenol (PCP) or other hazardous materials.

Snow said the Brownfields funds are aimed at removing hazardous materials and renovate buildings for economic development.

Muggli added that the goal was to reuse existing structures.

The ultimate goal is to benefit the community, Geras said.

Brownfields Project Manager Ted Lanzano said the assessment will likely cost around $15,000-20,000.

After the assessment is done and if a cleanup is needed, Etchemendy and Filler will consider applying for the Brownfields cleanup loan.

Muggli said Etchemendy and Filler are the first downtown merchants taking advantage of the Brownfields funds. 

She said many private owners could be eligible for the funds, and she would walk owners through the application process for historic buildings. 

“So far it’s been pretty painless. She’s been taking care of all of it,” Etchemendy said of Muggli and the application paperwork. “Connie’s been great through the whole thing.”

“If I tried to do it on my own it would be overwhelming,” he said.

He said that with the assessment study, they will catch any hazardous materials in the office.

“I’m going to sleep well at night. I don’t want anyone to get hurt because of our ignorance (about hazardous materials).  ... We’re doing it so we can get it done right,” he said of the assessment.

Plus he’s happy it is contributing to revitalizing downtown.

The office will be gutted and totally remodeled, Etchemendy said.

There are renters for the office who want to move in as soon as possible.

Muggli said that while the assessment is done with EPA consultants, the cleanup is done with local contractors, bringing more money into the community. 

“The end result is that the building is safe for future tenants, increased property value and it brings jobs and businesses to town,” she said.

For the building owners, it reduces the amount of capital outlay they have to come up with to renovate buildings. 

“It’s one of the most efficient and successful economic development tools in the country,” she said.

The savings of using Brownfields funds combined with historic preservation tax credits “is huge,” she added.

Tuesday night Etchemendy, Muggli and Shelli Esle of the Great Northern Development Corporation (in Wolf Point) will get together to discuss the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund to clean up the office, if it is needed. Great Northern manages the fund for Miles City.

Muggli said banks generally don’t give loans for cleanup, therefore the EPA established this fund.

Usually the interest is less than bank loans.

Now that owners of one downtown property has applied for the grant, Muggli hopes others will follow. 

Lanzano said, “It has been a pleasure working with Miles City and the property owners on this downtown revitalization project. We can provide assessment and cleanup support for similar projects, and we hope to continue working with Miles City in the future.”