City gets $400,000 grant to assess properties

The Columbus Community Development Department has received a $400,000 federal grant to start a communitywide program dedicated to evaluating and renovating unused properties.

The grant, which comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is earmarked for environmental assessments of local brownfields — properties that were previously developed, but are now sitting empty.

Many of those properties in Columbus were former industrial or commercial sites that could possibly be redeveloped into new commercial or residential options for residents.

It’s the first time that the city has attempted to create a brownfield assessment program, said Carl Malysz, community development director.

“There have been project-site specific projects, and those are good,” Malysz said. “But what we need is a program that’s city-wide.”

The community development department is required to split the grant money evenly into two types of assessments: assessments of properties susceptible to hazardous materials and assessments of properties possibly polluted or contaminated by petroleum.

While the department has an idea of where brownfields are located throughout the city, Malysz said he will work with the redevelopment and planning departments to create an official inventory of properties that need to be assessed.

Assessments are divided into three phases, Malysz said.

Phase One is a general evaluation of the property to determine if there is a risk for contamination or other environmental issues. If assessors see a risk, they will move the property on to Phase Two, which includes taking soil and water samples and testing it for hazardous qualities.

If the samples seem contaminated, the properties will be moved on to a Phase Three evaluation, which is an analysis of mitigation and remediation plans.

The $400,000 can likely support 14 to 20 Phase One evaluations, four to six Phase Two evaluations and six Phase Three evaluations, all split evenly between the two types of properties.

“It’s like a funnel,” Malysz said. “Things will fall out in phase one and phase two.”

But before the evaluations can begin, Malysz said his department will host several public dialogues and information sessions to ensure residents understand how the program works.

They will also make the final inventory list before most Phase One assessments begin, although Malysz said they will likely begin some initial assessments while still compiling the final list.

The department is currently in contract negotiations with Bruce Carter Associates LLC, an environmental consulting firm based out of Indianapolis. Initial assessments will begin in early October.

List of brownfields

The community development, redevelopment and planning departments will meet in the fall to create an updated inventory of brownfield sites throughout Columbus. Known brownfields are located at:

  • 13th Street and Michigan Avenue
  • Gladstone Avenue and State Street
  • 25th Street and National Road
  • Lafayette Avenue and Second Street
  • Repp Court and State Street
  • Third and Brown streets
  • 17th Street and McClure Road

About the grant

The EPA Brownfield Assessment Program was created in 1995. Out of 450 applicants this year, 243 grants were awarded in 147 communities across the country. In Indiana, 10 grants were awarded. To receive the grant, the city submitted an initial application in December and was then asked to submit a work program in early July.

Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.