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Brooksville defends brownfields grant progress

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Published:   |   Updated: May 20, 2014 at 06:55 PM

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BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville is on track to use a $400,000 grant to further examine potentially contaminated sites in the city, according to a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency last week.

The letter, written by Community Development Director Bill Geiger, responded to a request from the EPA sent in early April, informing the city it needed to show it was making “sufficient progress” with its Brownfields Cooperative Agreement grant.

The city was awarded the $400,000 grant in September 2012. The grant, which pays to assess sites believed to be contaminated with hazardous waste, expires on Sept. 30, 2015. The grant does not pay for properties to be cleaned up. Project leaders have said previously all the work must be completed by the final day of the grant.

According to the EPA, Brooksville had spent $78,481.97 of the grant, or about 20 percent, when the letter was sent on April 3. A project is considered to be progressing if has used about 35 percent of the funds in the first 18 months, the letter shows. The EPA instructed the city to return a letter that includes an action plan by May 16, or face termination of the grant.

But, according to Geiger, the city spent $144,444.94 during the first 18 months, or about 37 percent, and the difference in figures can be attributed to a one-month lag between billing and expenses reported to the EPA for reimbursement.

“We’re essentially telling them we have our quarterly report from the end of March that shows our expenses close to 37 percent … we’re even further along,” Geiger said.

Geiger said the letter didn’t come as a surprise because the brownfields project team stays in “constant contact” and has monthly conference calls with the EPA to discuss progress.

Geiger’s letter also stated that out of 19 prospective properties, four property owners had signed off on agreements to begin phase one assessments. Work done on the first phase includes background research and visual inspection of the properties. If the properties move on to phase two, soil samples will be collected and evaluated, Geiger said.

On Monday, Geiger said the four sites are the Brooksville Housing Authority, 800 Continental Drive; a property at 27 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., formerly known as Citrus Service and Dairy Service; and two Main Street properties adjacent to the former plant.

In his letter, Geiger said the city expects to start three or four more phase one assessments in the next three to six months, and two phase two assessments. In the next six months to a year, the city hopes to conduct two or three more phase one assessments and one more phase two assessment, Geiger wrote.

“We’re sticking to the plan, and will continue to unless they tell us to do something else,” Geiger said.

During a March 17 meeting, Brooksville City Council signed off on 19 sites identified around the city, and allowed the Brooksville brownfields program to move forward with contacting property owners and starting assessments.

A preliminary site list was whittled down from 90 potential properties developed by a community task force in February. Included in the list are sites along the Good Neighbor Trail, and properties that used to house oil and citrus packing plants.

The next community brownfields meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on May 22, at the sheriff’s office substation, 601 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Brooksville.

Geiger said the task force will discuss progress on the site research and discuss a timeline. Roxanne Amoroso, senior vice president of Incore Residential, will be speaking about her work on a brownfields project in east Tampa.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Geiger said. “People can come and hear her success stories, and we can maybe take a page out of her book and have a success story here.”

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