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Commissioners discuss brownfields

February 16, 2011
Tom Mosley of Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission presented the commissioners with options regarding two brownfield sites in the county at their meeting Jan. 27.

One is a former manufacturing plant in English and the other is a former mulch facility in the Marengo Industrial Park.

Indiana 15 RPC, he said, spent $46,514 to investigate the English site and $14,994 to investigate the Marengo site. The Marengo site cost less as it didn't require as much work, he explained.

Mosley said the commissioners can choose to do nothing, but, in that case, the property will never be cleaned up, no property taxes will be collected and the environmental site assessments will expire, he said.

The other option, Mosley said, is to take possession of the property. He said the county may be eligible for a $200,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean-up grant for each site. Each grant would require a 20-percent match from the county, but the state may help or it may be furnished through in-kind donations. Grant applications are due in October, he said. Cleaning up the properties, he said, would allow them to be sold and put back on the property tax roll.

Mosley pointed to a project in Pike County where the commissioners received an EPA grant to clean up an old gas station.

"So, these things do work," he said.

Mosley noted municipalities often are fearful of taking possession of such properties because of concerns about liability. He said the state can provide a "comfort letter." Such a letter is issued to a party that qualifies for an applicable exemption to liability found in Indiana law of Indiana Department of Environmental Management policy, but, Mosley said, it isn't a legal release from liability.

District 2 Commissioner Randy Gilmore, who led the meeting in the absence of board President Jim Schultz, who was out of town to attend a funeral, said the commissioners have looked at the properties before but had decided to leave their possessions to the town. However, he said, the situation may be worth re-examining.

The commissioners tabled the matter but instructed County Attorney John E. Colin to review the Indiana statutes regarding brownfields and to talk with officials from English and Marengo.

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