SPICELAND — Members of the Spiceland Town Council have joined a team of transformers – not the robotic figures on the big screen but a group heroic in its own right, one that helps transform troubled properties into new business opportunities.
After hearing a presentation from Penny York, the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp’s director of special projects, council members Wednesday enthusiastically authorized their president, Darrin Jacobs, to sign documents making Spiceland a community partner in a new effort to seek Environmental Protection Agency brownfield assessment grant funding. That funding helps assess properties where contamination may have occurred, a first step in making them marketable again.
“Even though it’s kind of a behind-the-scenes activity and you don’t always realize what’s happening, seriously it is such a benefit to our communities,” York said.
Spiceland joins the city of New Castle and Henry County Commissioners in teaming together on the latest grant application. Members of the New Castle City Council authorized their participation Monday night.
One could say it’s not the first rodeo for this team of transformers.
It’s actually the second time the local EDC has applied for the funding. York said the first effort secured $500,000 for assessing properties, money that was put to good use in transforming properties in Henry County from former eyesores into thriving businesses.
Rose City Partners have used the funding to set the stage for Broad Street improvements in New Castle. York also listed the former E-Coaters facility in the industrial park as a place where the assessment grant literally opened the door of opportunity for Beacon Industries to begin its business there. Hoosier Brake and Alignment in New Castle is operating successfully today in a place where the assessment grant literally cleared the way.
York thanked the board and said the timing of their approval will help accelerate the grant process. The grant application, she said, is due the day before Thanksgiving.
“If we are fortunate enough to receive the new grant funding, anyone who is interested in buying or selling a commercial property can contact our office at 765-521-7402 to see if we can get a property deemed eligible for a Phase I assessment,” York said.
This time, $100,000 is available in funding for former petroleum sites and $300,000 for places where hazardous substances might be located.
“We don’t know if we’re going to get it, we’re just giving it a second try,” York said. “With the first grant we received, we were able to put $500,000 back into our communities and get places back on the tax rolls.”
The money is earmarked toward “brownfields” – properties that have potential contamination like former gas stations or old dry cleaners. “Places like that which could have contaminated the ground, the soil or the water,” York said.
New Castle-Henry County EDC President Corey Murphy recently spoke at a brownfield roundtable, according to York.
York emphasized the grant funding does not actually pay for clean-up of a property. It is just an environmental review. But, that information is important to lending institutions and influences decisions on loan applications submitted by people wanting to do something new on those properties. “The goal is getting the property back into reuse and on the tax rolls,” York said.
Rose City Partners is a prime example of that, York said.
“They paid $17,500 and invested an additional $70,000 in a property at 1105 Broad St. It’s helped our downtown, increased the value and it looks 100 times better,” York said.
Without the assessment grant funds, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
“They wouldn’t have been able to get financing, otherwise,” Jacobs said.
Spiceland Council members, who have been aggressive recently in cleaning up eyesore properties, immediately began to brainstorm how the grant could help the town.
York assured council members there would be no cost to the town. Its role as a community partner would only require occasional meeting space and staff time.
“We might ask to meet here and use your meeting room with Darrin, who is a member of our board. It doesn’t commit you to anything. You don’t have to spend one dime.”
“I think this is a good opportunity,” Council member Pam Stigall said.
“It can be very valuable in turning properties around, it really can,” York said. “I would encourage anyone who has a property they suspect is contaminated to give us leads.”