Belfast to begin environmental site assessments on former Maskers theater property

By Ben Holbrook | Feb 22, 2013
Photo by: Ben Holbrook The city will begin conducting a series of environmental site assessments on the former Maskers theater property.

Belfast — City Councilors authorized transferring and spending $3,000 to begin a Phase I environmental site assessment on the former Belfast Masker’s building and property Tuesday, Feb. 19.

The city received a federal Brownfield Program award, which is used to conduct the environmental property assessments. However, the city is unable to use the program funds to conduct a site assessment on its own property.

For that reason, the city applied to the state Brownfield Program for funding to cover the cost of the site assessments on the former Maskers property and on the Front Street parking lot.

A Phase I environmental site assessment is strictly a review of all documents pertaining to a specific property to identify any possible areas of concern that would need to be further assessed.

Recently, the city was notified that the state Brownfield Program would only fund the environmental assessment for the Front Street parking lot and the city would have to fund the Phase I site assessment at its own cost.

Part of the city’s push to evaluate the site is due to Front Street Shipyard’s request for more land to expand operations. The city is also looking at demolishing the Maskers building, but cannot do so until the environmental site assessments are completed.

Once the Phase I assessment is completed, the city would also need to complete a hazardous materials inventory and a Phase II site assessment. The Phase II assessment is a more in depth examination of the property and costs significantly more to complete.

Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge estimated the hazardous materials inventory and Phase II environmental site assessment would cost an additional $16,000. Because state funding is not readily available, the city could temporarily transfer the property to a different entity, use its Brownfield Program funding to do the assessments, and then take back ownership of the property.

Kittredge said the federal government has authorized such transfers in the past.

Funding for the Phase I environmental site assessment will be transferred from an existing Northport Avenue sidewalk project account, City Manager Joseph Slocum told councilors.

The transfer and expenditure of $3,000 to pay for the Phase I site assessment was approved unanimously.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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