City asserts its stance on Baker Field and Conyers Street Gym as utility brands cause concern among residents
COVINGTON, Georgia. – Yellow flags recently used to identify gas lines at Conyers Street Gymnasium and Baker Field raised red flags on Monday for area residents.
Just two weeks ago, residents heard a mixed-use development proposal that would revitalize the historic facility and add 40 apartments to the area. Despite the developer’s intentions to preserve as many historical elements as possible in the development, many residents at the town hall event on September 28 were not in favor of the plan and clearly expressed their opposition.
During the same event, city officials categorically stated that no decision had been made and that the community’s contribution would be a determining factor for the future of the property.
After yellow flags marking utility lines were seen at the facility on Monday morning October 11, residents contacted the Covington News fear the worst. Had their contribution fallen on deaf ears? Was the city going ahead with the proposal?
Covington Community Development Director Trey Sanders said The news this was not the case and assured, once again, that no decision had been taken.
âThis is just a public service location,â he said. âThere will be a lot of talk before anything happens there. It is a promise.
Special Projects Coordinator Randy Conner confirmed the utility location was for an environmental assessment of the building as part of the city’s application process for a brownfield cleanup grant.
Brownfield Cleanup Grants are federal grants “designed to enable states, tribes, communities and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.” .
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), brownfield is “a property the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. It is estimated that there are over 450,000 brownfield sites in the United States. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases the local tax base, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, reduces development pressures on undeveloped and open land, and improves and protects the environment. ”
Covington City Council agreed to Economic Development Director William Smith and his staff for a federal brownfield cleanup grant at a meeting on September 7.
Smith said Conyers Street Gym was documented earlier this year as infested with mold, asbestos and lead. Hoping to clean up the property for future use, Smith said he and his staff have started looking for opportunities to fund such a venture.
âThe brownfield clean-up grant was brought to our attention after the start of the new fiscal year,â he told the mayor and council. “We wanted to continue this so that we could prepare this building for future use – whatever that use is.”
As part of the grant application process, Smith said that a requirement for the city was to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a hazardous materials assessment that would provide the city with an estimate of the total cost of the cleanup. Issuing the RFP would also allow qualified professionals to enter the building and do an assessment on âwhat needs to be removed and how they should be removed, and then give us a cost estimate,â he said. Smith said.
On September 7, City Council approved a RFP with Cardno Inc. in the amount of $ 20,500 to complete the assessment and provide an estimate of the total costs for the cleanup.
Smith said the cost of $ 20,500 for the assessment would later be factored into the total brownfield cleanup grant amount, which would be determined once the assessment is complete.
According to the EPA, Brownfields Cleanup Grant applicants can apply for up to $ 500,000 to tackle a brownfield site. Smith said the grant would require an equivalent amount of up to $ 120,000 from the city for council to approve.
If the city decides to sell the property, the city could try to get some of that money back, Smith said.
Another point made by Smith: the EPA requires the city or a âmunicipal entityâ to retain ownership throughout the grant process and remediation process.
Conner said work to assess the facility was on track to be completed on Tuesday after the test holes were conducted around the perimeter.