Central mayor appoints brownfields committee

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

CENTRAL — Central Mayor Mac Martin has appointed a committee to work with the $400,000 brownfields cleanup grant the town was awarded in May.

Those appointed include council members Doug Barry and Paige Bowers, business owners Joey Martin and Brandon Thomas and property owner Bobby Ballentine. The committee will begin meeting in January.

“These individuals have an interest in Central, and they’ll be kind of overseeing the direction of the expenditure of the brownfield grant,” Martin said.

A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. An estimated 450,000 brownfields are reportedly in existence in the U.S.

Town administrator Phillip Mishoe said the grant would assess properties in Central to test and determine if they are contaminated. If that is the case, he said a cost estimate would be needed on repair, then applying for a follow up grant for cleanup. Both public and private properties will be tested.

Officials say cleanup and reinvestment in those properties will increase local tax bases, facilitate job growth, utilize existing infrastructure, take development pressure off undeveloped, open land as well as improve and protect the environment. Gas stations, junkyards, textile mills or areas with potential buildings or property that is not being sold are eligible for the brownfields program.

“We’ve got to get rolling on this brownfields issue,” Mishoe said. “It’s important to draw the citizens in because when people think of EPA, they think of people in spacesuits and handcuffs, arresting people and fining people, but this isn’t the arm of the EPA. This is more of an economic development period where people own property, but can’t do anything with it because there might be something wrong. They come in and test the soil, test the building.”

Mishoe added it wouldn’t cost property owners and landowners to have their property assessed.

“There may not be anything wrong, but they don’t know for sure,” he said.

Martin said the assessment will “help property owners attach some value to any problem they need remedied.”

“That way, they can use it in their negotiation price,” Martin said. “At that point, it’s up to the property owner.”

If property owners provide permission, officials say a chemical analysis will be conducted and an estimate provided on the cost of removal if anything is found. A consulting firm will assist the town through the process.

Mishoe said he is pleased with the positive response provided by council to serving on the committee.

“Council has a really good grasp on this now,” Mishoe said. “We had more council members volunteering to be on the committee than were needed.”