Henry County awarded second EPA brownfield grant

Henry County has been selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a recipient of the Brownfield Assessment Grant. This is the second time the county has received this grant in the past five years after first receiving it in 2015.

“Henry County is pleased to partner with the City of New Castle, Town of Spiceland and the Economic Development Corporation to continue offering environmental assessment grants to eligible commercial properties all across our county,” said Board of Commissioners President Kim Cronk. “This is a great tool for returning properties to the tax roll and welcoming new investment and jobs.”

The grant will allocate $400,000 to the county that can be used for assessing brownfields: former industrial or commercial sites where potential soil contamination could occur.

The goal of these assessments is to find areas of contamination that need to be addressed. Investigations can be done on properties to remove risk and potential environmental concern.

The grant is meant to provide a service to local business that can among other things assist in the sale of a property.

“One example is an existing business that is looking to sell, but the purchaser needs bank financing, and the bank had concerns about environmental,” Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Corey Murphy said. “So we were able to go in and do the assessment and get the bank comfortable to lend more on the property. So, the grant supported the transition in ownership of a small business.”

There are several areas in the county that have been designated as high priority to be considered for assessment. The areas cannot be assessed without the consent of the landowner however.

“Because we need the cooperation of the landowner, in other words we can’t do the assessment without the cooperation of the land owner, I’m hesitant to name specific sites,” Murphy said. “The grant talked about areas, so what Penny [York, Special Projects Coordinator] did was she drove around with our consultants that helped us write the grant and then documented potential locations because we wanted to create the grant narrative in such a way that is very accurate but also very compelling to justify the need for the tool to continue to be available.

“So we focused on the original industrial park here in New Castle on the east side, we focused on an area in Middletown, and we focused on an area in Spiceland.”

York said sometimes people don’t want to do an environmental assessment because they don’t really want to know what might in the soil.

“Maybe they got the property gifted to them by their parents, or something like that because it can reveal something that could be a potential liability,” she said.

Murphy said assessments can be useful even if there is no contamination found in the soil as a clean result can increase the confidence of potential buyers in the safety of both the land and the investment and eliminate a perceived risk.

The previous time the grant was awarded to Henry County, 20 properties were assessed and $1.25 million in private investment was generated.

“This new grant is going to function nearly the same, with the continuation of the work that we’ve done over the last three and a half years,” said Murphy said. “Continue the outreach, continue to market the program, and provide assessments for the commercial properties of Henry County.”

– Story by Matt Sharp of The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at www.TheCourierTimes.com.