Hartford OKs site assessment grant agreement

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

June 15, 2017

Traffic moves through the intersection of Main and State streets Wednesday afternoon in Hartford. The city has approved a contract in order to receive a grant of up to $150,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Develop Corp. to assess contamination in eight land parcels near the intersection.
Joe VanDeLaarschot/Daily News

HARTFORD — City officials have approved an agreement with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that could bring the city $150,000 in grant money. The money will further help the city assess what measures could be taken to mitigate soil contamination in several lots near the intersection of Main and State streets that city officials have called the “bookend project.” The city learned in May it could receive the funds if it approves the agreement they signed off on earlier this week.

Redevelopment of that area at the north edge of the city’s downtown will be another step toward completing the city’s downtown redevelopment plan.

“This site (eight parcels) was identified in the downtown redevelopment plan as a key site for multi-family housing,” said City Planner Justin Drew in an executive summary written to other city officials.

In 2016, city staff in conjunction with Washington County and the Environmental Protection Agency used funds in two phases of a federal re-mediation program which indicated widespread contamination of the soil with lead and arsenic as well as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.

“The grant will allow us to continue site investigation; conduct a hazardous material survey and abatement plan; and demolish the existing buildings to assist in the site investigation, with the assumption that asbestos is likely present,” said City Administrator Steve Volkert.

“Will the money go into a special city fund?” asked Alderman Roger Randolph.

“No, the grant is a matching grant that requires the city and developer to spend at least $75,000 first in order to receive the entire $150,000 grant,” Volkert said.

“The money will come from the general fund then?” Randolph asked.

“The money will come from the general fund now, but the project is located in the new TIF district so eventually the city will be reimbursed for those expenses through the increased taxes generated in that district when new development takes place,” said Mayor Tim Michalak.

Volkert said approving the grant agreement is a “crucial piece” of the redevelopment plan.

“It moves all parties involved closer to the goal of new development,” Volkert said. “The plans that come out of this grant can be used to apply for a WEDC Brownfields Grant, which can pay up to 30 percent of the cost of cleanup or mitigation with a maximum of $500,000.”

The grant expires at the end of 2017.

“In the whole (Hartford) downtown area there’s actually about 31 parcels that are within a block of the Rubicon River and are adjacent to residential neighborhoods that we’ll be looking at for potential assessment by using (other) grant funds we just received,” said Washington County Planning and Parks Deputy Administrator Debora Sielski. “The sites themselves are either ‘real’ or ‘perceived’ brownfields,” Sielski said. “It’s not that these parcels are contaminated funds can be used to assess them to determine if they are contaminated or not. The perception of brownfields can really hamper redevelopment because of all of the unknowns. The assessments could change the perception for the good.”