Town gets $300,000 environmental grant

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FORTVILLE — The town of Fortville was awarded over $300,000 from the federal government for funding environmental studies that would be needed before redeveloping certain properties.

Provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the $305,700 will pay for assessments on what are known as brownfields.

The grant will fund two kinds of assessments — Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies. Phase 1 studies entail delving into the histories of sites. Those could prompt Phase 2 studies, which go further by involving activities like getting samples of soil, groundwater, air, asbestos and lead-based paint.

Adam Zaklikowski, Fortville planning and building director, said there’s a lot of potential for the grant dollars.

“Potential developers that are looking to purchase properties in Fortville that they suspect may be contaminated — especially old gas station sites, auto repair sites — they would have to do a Phase 1 or even possibly a Phase 2 environmental assessment study,” Zaklikowski said. “The grant money would cover the cost of doing those studies. What’s advantageous about it is some developers have shied away from some of these studies in the past because they don’t want to sink money into a prospective project and not know what’s there. Basically this grant money will lower the development risk of a particular property, so it’s very helpful.”

Indianapolis-based BCA Environmental Consultants helped Fortville get the grant and will conduct the studies the grant funds. The firm is doing the same kind of work in Greenfield through an EPA grant the city received in 2021.

Len Hinrichs, business development manager for BCA, agreed that being able to fund such assessments lowers development risk.

“This money is essentially the seed money for future development,” Hinrichs said. “The unknown is the biggest problem in brownfield redevelopment. It’s literally not knowing what’s there that often prevents the properties from being considered for redevelopment.”

He also said the grant can help communities create inventories of sites they may want to use the assessment funding for, along with spreading the word about and engaging the community in the availability of the funding.

The grant does not fund property cleanups, but can be used for remediation planning.

Fritz Fentz, Fortville Town Council president and a business owner, said he learned a lot about environmental requirements regarding redevelopment when he was turning the former auto repair shop at 110 E. Broadway St. into Denver’s Garage Pizza & Brews. He worked with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to get large underground tanks removed from the property, after which he had to get groundwater tested every quarter for two years.

Fentz encouraged the town to seek the EPA grant.

“I said this would be a good way to at least get some money so people can do the Phase 1 and Phase 2,” he said.

Fentz noted that at one time, Fortville had a lot of gas stations and dry cleaners, where chemicals could have gotten into the ground.

Fortville’s award was part of $9.4 million to Indiana for assessing brownfield sites or supporting revolving loan funds, and was supported by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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